Am I a jerk because I’m vicious with MY time?

Do-not-disturbYou know what? Sometimes I'm a jerk and I'm being that way on purpose.

It's not that I like being a jerk or that I want to be a jerk. It's because other people forced me to be a jerk.

You see, I'm a jerk about my time. People don't want me to be in control of my time. THEY want to control my time. They probably want to control YOUR time, as well.

People will send me an email, for example. They want my software to receive their email immediately and alert me immediately. They want me to read their email immediately and the want me to respond immediately. I don't do that so I'm a jerk.

People want to call my office and speak to me immediately, even if I've never met them before. I don't do that.

People will contact me and say they want to buy me a cup of coffee to "pick my brain." I don't do that.

I started The Adventure back in 1986. Working solo was a new thing for me. With no assistant to protect me as I had before in my last real job, I quickly learned there were a LOT of distractions and interruptions during the day (and remember, this was before the Internet). I also quickly learned that when I allowed those interruptions in my day I was very unproductive (translation: not making any money). Interruptions not only, well, INTERRUPTED me, but I lost any momentum I'd achieved and would have to start over.

As a solo act I simply couldn't afford to drop everything whenever somebody else wanted me to, so I decided to be a vicious time manager. That's how I described it. I told people I was vicious with my time and it would be difficult to reach me. I blocked several hours off each day when I was completely unavailable. My answering machine instructed people to leave detailed messages, not just "Hey Steve, it's John Smith. Give me a call back." I explained that without a detailed message, there would be no return call.

I often blocked entire days of at a time. When I wrote my first book, How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows, I blocked my calendar and we told people I was traveling.

Guess what? I became really productive. 27 years later I'm still in business and making pretty good money. And as technology has advanced and provided us with so many more way cool tools for interrupting each other, I've had to be diligent in my Vicious Time Management System:

  • I've learned that all the new "time management tools" don't really make us better time managers. They just enable us to be the same time manager we always have been, but in a different medium. If you're a terrible time manager and you get Things for your iPhone, you'll still be a terrible time manager using Things on your iPhone.
  • I've learned to not only block my phone calls for hours at a time, but also block email and texts, as well. (Those little time-sucking tricksters are the devil's work, I tell you.) I love iPhone's new Do Not Disturb feature. Apple must have read my mind!
  • I don't feel compelled to be a serial text or email responder.
      "Hey, Peter, thanks for your help on that matter!"
      "No problem, Steve, happy to help."
      "Well, that awfully nice of you to say, Peter, but thanks anyway."
      "You bet, Steve. Anytime."
      "Cool, Peter!" 
      "Sure thing, Steve."
      Aargh!  
  • I've learned to not read emails in my spam folder, no matter how tempting and entertaining they may be.
  • I don't give out my cell number to everybody. Don't ask.
  • I've learned to use a timer for intense work periods. I'm write my blog with a timer, for example. I use the Pomodoro Technique and set it for 25 minutes. I go full bore until the timer goes off, then take a 5-minute break doing something completely different. This gives my brain a rest before going back in for another 25-minutes. Works for me.
  • I educate my inner circle to understand my viciousness. They know I'm not trying to be a jerk. I just want to be productive! And there are many times when I'm being productive for THEM.

I get the fact that "vicious" sounds harsh. Too bad. I think there are times when we need to use extreme terminology to smack ourselves on the side of the head to get our own attention. I also think we need to show people we mean business, especially when we're supposed to be DOING business.

I'll make you a deal. If you don't feel bad when I don't immediately respond to your email/text/voicemail/fax/carrier pigeon, then I won't feel bad if you do the same.