The Art of Defensive Time Management

If you don’t manage your time, someone else will manage it for you.

One of the key tactics for getting out of overwhelm his understanding that you are a powerful person, in charge of your own schedule. You get to decide when to say “yes”, and when to say “no”.

Business man stop time

That’s simple enough. But simple does not always equal easy, and managing your time defensively-protecting it from abuse by other people-requires that you do something that is not easy.

You must set and enforce boundaries.

Because this is the most difficult part of defensive time management, here are three tips that should give you some free space in your schedule.

Get Rid of “Got a Minute Meetings”. Any time someone asks you if you have “got a minute”, your internal alarm should go off. Your schedule is about to be hijacked, your productivity throttled, and your objectives for the day thwarted. Have a standard response ready for those “got a minute meeting” requests. Something like this works nicely: “I have to focus on something else right now. Let’s meet at 3:30, and we can go over everything on your list then.”

Batch Process Your Emails and Voicemails. Email and voicemail are great tools-especially for other people who want to add tasks to your to do list. “Batch processing” puts an end to your being manipulated and controlled by others. For this to work, you have to make one giant adjustment in your daily routine: only check email and voicemail once or (at most) twice a day in a “batch”. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it, you don’t have to announce it, you certainly don’t have to make an autoresponder to brag about it. Twice a day is perfectly reasonable. I would suggest 11 AM and 4 PM. That way the first part of your day is not derailed by other people’s priorities, and you catch anything that comes in at the end of the day. Now, outside those two times each day, just don’t give into the temptation to check your email or your voicemail. This habit alone will transform your life. Try it.

Become Hyperaware of the Time. Ever notice how there are no clocks and casinos? The reason is casino operators know that if you are not aware of what time it is, you will spend more time lingering in their establishment. The same is true of your workday. If you are not conscious of the passage of time, the time required to complete each task will expand. While that state may be great if you are relaxing and don’t need to get many things done, it doesn’t work well for most entrepreneurs. At the very least, use a digital timer to set boundaries around the time you spend working on particular projects. Contrary to many popular expert opinions, my experience shows that if you become hyperaware of the time, you get more done in less time. Imagine that. You will also come to jealously defend your precious productivity and revenue-producing hours.

Become a defensive manager of your own schedule, and watch your productivity soar (and your stress level plummet).

Question: What about you? What are some of your favorite tactics for defending your precious productivity?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • I broke out of my schedule to read your article. It was worth it. Meanwhile… back at my desk….

    • Dennis, you definitely made me chuckle. Back to work!

  • Ray, I wonder if you have tips about how to gradually move your staff into being ok with this process?
    We have a small organization (30 employees) with 3 locations across the state of South Dakota. I can easily see people being offended by this. Short of stating the new intention (hey, I’m going to try to cut down on wasted time by doing these things…), do you have any ideas on how to make your staff ok with the change?
    Most of the time, when someone sends an email in our office, they feel the need to then stop by your office to ensure you’ve received it or to “chat” about it (which, I know, totally defeats the purpose of sending an email in the first place). I’m responsible for my boss’s schedule, but am not at a physical spot where I can actually stop anyone from walking in and asking “got a minute.” Understanding that my boss needs to be on board with this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the transition.
    Thanks for the great post, Ray!

  • Good post.

    One of the ways I defend my precious productivity time is by making the first hour of my day “me time”. For this first hour I spend the time prepping my mind for the rest of the day by clearing my thoughts and expressing my inner gratitude. This helps me to to get an edge and focus for the rest of the day.

    I like your idea about checking email and voicemail once or twice a day. I sometimes will turn off the ringer of my cell phone so that I am not always compelled to answer it every single time. Seems to save some time for me not constantly answering thee phone every time it rings.

  • William McPeck

    In our attempt to either please others or to be seen as a team player, we tend to forget our own priorites. Our priorities are of equal importance.

  • Kim

    Working from home makes it tough at times to control my time at times. Family seem to forget that if I want to get stuff done (like shipping out packages) then I am on a time limit on getting it done. I have gotten to the point also that I hate voice mail. So I am really bad at checking it.

    Text messages are just as bad at stealing time away from getting things done. But for me a lot of my customers tend to send me messages through Facebook, Twitter etc when they got questions. So yeah its hard to control the time, but also I have to look at it, if I answer those messages there is a good chance a sale will happen.

    Kim Snyder