How to Guard your Time

The more successful you become, the more guarded you have to be with your time. Between your work assignments, meetings, answering emails, networking events, mentoring, family, and friends, there just isn’t enough time in the day to recklessly agree to everything. And, when you do agree to do something, you have to make sure that it isn’t infringing on other tasks. You can’t spend your morning answering non-urgent emails, sit at lunch for two hours, hop on a zoom call and engage in small talk for another two hours, go to happy hour for three hours, and still expect to get your actual work done. So, here are some tips to better guard your time:

1. Be upfront about how much time you can devote to any given meeting or call.

When scheduling a meeting or call be upfront about how long you can attend. Whether it’s 30 minutes or an hour, you have to be realistic about how much time you can commit to based on the nature and importance of the meeting. Responding to a meeting request with “I can meet on Tuesday from 2-2:30pm or 4-5pm” is completely acceptable. Rather than saying “I am available Tuesday afternoon, give a definitive day and time, as it is more productive and eliminates the time-consuming back and forth of scheduling. It allows the recipient to simply pick one of your windows. Once the time is agreed to, make sure to calendar the call so that it starts on time.

2. Don’t be scared to end the meeting on time.

Meetings and calls frequently run long but, that does not mean you can’t exit at the end time. If you were upfront about how long you could commit to the call and the call is running over, it is ok to say “I have another appointment so, I need to jump off but, I’d be happy to schedule another call to go over anything I miss.” You can also preview your exit and say “I have a hard stop at 5pm and we have a few minutes left, did we cover everything you wanted to discuss”? One of the biggest challenges in guarding your time is making sure that scheduled appointments do not run long. Sure, it may be 10 minutes here and there but that quickly adds up and derails your day.

3. Every call does not have to be a zoom call.

Just because someone asks for a zoom call doesn’t mean you can’t say no. Use your judgment to determine whether a zoom call is necessary. If you are struggling to find an open window of time and know you will be in the car for 25 minutes headed to pick up your kids, you can use that time to talk. Responding with “I’ll be in the car and can join by phone” is perfectly fine. If it’s an important meeting that requires you to turn your camera on, then make that judgment call and respond with your availability but, if the call can be an old-school, pre-pandemic, regular phone call, then don’t feel pressure to be available for zoom calls at all hours of the day.

4. Block out time to complete projects.

When I know I have to draft a brief or prepare for a deposition, I block the time off on my calendar. The calendar entry will show that I am busy from 9am to 12pm for “deposition prep.” This ensures that nothing else is scheduled during that time and reminds me to focus. Of course I will have things that come up like an urgent email so I have to remain flexible and adjust the block of time if needed but, I make sure that my work assignments get the same amount of priority as any other meeting or call.

5. If you’re truly too busy, say no.

Understand that some days/weeks are just too busy to say yes and that’s ok. If a friend or mentee asks to go to lunch saying “this week isn’t good but, next week Wednesday at 11:30am works” is completely ok. Speaking honestly, you will also be asked to do things that you simply do not want to commit to. That’s ok too. Telling someone no is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned but, you can’t say yes to everything. Guarding your time means being selective with your “yes.” If it does not add value to your goals or relationships, then don’t be scared to say no. And, don’t feel compelled to explain why either. Saying “I am unable to take on new commitments” or “thank you for the opportunity but, I am not interested” is something you have to learn how to do so that you leave room for the things you are truly passionate about.

The most precious resource we all have is time – Steve Jobs

The Misconception About Being Strong

Most of my life, I have been told that I am strong. It started when I was 12, after my Dad died, and extended family repeatedly told me that I had to be strong for my mom and my sisters. I proudly assumed the role. It came naturally. As I got older, I was strong for my friends, my coworkers, and people I mentored. I have always prided myself on being the person people could lean on: putting my own worries and fears aside. I began to wear my strength as a badge, a brand, a trait that had to shine through no matter what. My strength overcame all other emotions.

But, over the past few months—while dealing with the stress of working from home with a toddler, pregnancy, a global pandemic, insensitive and hurtful comments about racial inequality, and the unexpected death of a family member—I’ve realized that strength is not about ignoring emotions or hardships.

Strength is about being resilient.

Strength is not about forcing yourself to push through. It’s about recognizing that you may feel sad or defeated today but, not allowing yourself to stay in that place forever. Strength doesn’t mean you ignore all other emotions, it means that you feel all of the emotions, give yourself time to heal, then pick yourself up. It means that you learn from tough experiences instead of letting them destroy you. Finding the lesson after failure, finding your smile after months of grieving, and getting up after being knocked down are examples of true strength.

“Strength doesn’t always roar loud like a lion, sometimes strength is a tiny voice in the back of your head that whispers that you will try again tomorrow.” – Tunde Oyeneyin

The Secret Life of an Overachiever

From the outside looking in, overachievers appear to have it all. They are goal oriented, motivated, and on their way to success. It can be hard watching them in action because they always seem to have their sh*t together. But the harsh downside of being an overachiever is that they are never satisfied. As soon as they hit one milestone or accomplish a goal, they move on to the next item on their check list. While one would think they are basking in their seemingly frequent successes, overachievers are constantly stressed and burdened with figuring out how to climb to the next level: instead of enjoying the level they just reached.

If you’re an overachiever, you have to take a moment to enjoy what you just accomplished. This doesn’t mean simply post about it on LinkedIn, it means that you should really take a week or two and just chill. Treat yourself to a fancy dinner, celebrate by buying that Balenciaga scarf, or book a stay-cation and do nothing but binge watch Netflix. Then, as you’re planning your next move, write down at least three things that you have today that you wished of having before. Taking a moment to stop and realize how far you’ve come is a way to make sure that you aren’t speeding through life and missing it. Accomplishing goals and leveling up is great but, closing your eyes to the incredible view on the way up the mountain is not. Open your eyes and take it in, you’ve earned it.

How to Become a Better Speaker

Have you ever been to a conference or presentation and a speaker is so good that you envy her ability to stand in front of a room and effortlessly speak? You think she is just a natural or chalk it up to her being an extrovert. But what if I told you that she practiced several times in front of a mirror. Or, that she had to give herself a pep talk in the bathroom right before she went on stage. Or, that she couldn’t eat breakfast because her stomach would have betrayed her.

Of course there are people that are naturally talented but, even the most talented people practice. They aren’t winging it. And, you shouldn’t either. Before your annual review, go over points that you want to make and practice those points until you aren’t stumbling over your words. If you have to give an update at a meeting, jot down a few talking points and say them out loud once or twice beforehand. And, if you have to give a speech or presentation, practice. This doesn’t mean you should memorize every single word but, you should have an outline that functions as your road map. Just like a dress rehearsal in theater, set yourself up for success with your own dress rehearsal: even if the rehearsal is in the car, the bathroom, or the elevator. Just stop winging it.


The One Career Mistake You’re Making and Don’t Even Know it

As women, we are mistakenly told to put our heads down, work hard, and be nice. But one of the biggest career mistakes you can make is not advocating for yourself. Yes, you work 10 hours a day and get along with everyone in the office; but, if you aren’t actively seeking out opportunities because you’re waiting for people to approach you then you’re going to be disappointed.

We’ve all heard the saying “squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Be the squeaky wheel. Speak up. If you want to be included on a new project, ask. If you want to be considered for a promotion, ask. And don’t just ask, be prepared to discuss why you’re qualified for the project or position. Stop sitting back and thinking your hard work will speak for itself, because it won’t. You will end up sitting at your desk wondering why no one has approached you. Take your career and future into your own hands and ask for opportunities, even if you have to ask more than once.