It’s About Time

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Most of us love to help another out. Most of us like to volunteer for a cause we believe in. We love to join our peers and help. It’s human nature.

Then it happens.  (Oddly, I’m writing about time management and I just received an email with subject line: “How saying no will change your life”)

We start to get that sense that something is off balance. We feel it before we know it. It’s an odd sense of being taken and you start thinking about whether the scales are balanced. When you say to yourself: “why can’t they just uTube that or Google that? ” — that’s when you know they have crossed your line.

Until we see it, we don’t even realize it. Until that day that the scales fly out of balance. We elevate others by giving of time and energy and it feels good for a while – until it doesn’t.

I’ve experienced the opposite side of this. A professional gave me an idea, when I asked how, he bluntly said: Do what everyone else does.” I’ve seen other professionals neatly and cleanly set boundaries, with zero need to placate the person asking.

As humans, we tend to gain as much from helping others as we do from enjoying our own increased level of mastery. Sometimes it just feels good. Sometimes we teach what we need to learn most.

The challenge is mastering the art of adeptly steer the conversation to a balanced give and take. With that, here is my boundary guide:

If it’s fun and free, it’s a gift I choose to give. If it’s something simple that takes less than a minute, it’s a gift. If it takes a week, I have to be clear: what and why I am giving away so much of my time and expertise. If I do it once, and enjoy it, but intend to only do it once or twice, it’s a gift. If it takes a bunch of time, research, craft, talent, or work — it’s a paid service I’ll provide. Or it’s a conscious choice to volunteer for a cause. Defining what one does as a volunteer is essential to making sure you are valuing your own time, talent, and treasure.

Not knowing is what leads to issues down the road. Be clear in your own head.

Just thinking about how countless hours can be given away under the “it’s a favor” label. That’s the proverbial shoulder tap that can suck your joy out of giving for fun and for free. We must be clear.