It's one of the lessons I've learned the hard way: there's no other resource valuable more than your own time. Why so?

  • it's hard-capped
  • it's not transferable (my time isn't directly exchangeable with your time, at least in the most vital aspects)
  • you can't acquire it - you can only recover the time that has already been pre-allocated (for the future)
  • in general, time doesn't have a direct equivalent (other than someone else's time ofc)
  • time already spent is lost forever

Time is closely coupled to focus. Someone who hijacks your focus spends your time (I won't elaborate on that, sorry - I think it should be clear for every creative worker).

Hence, people who abuse my time (or focus) cause a lot of harm. But what does it really mean - "to abuse my time"? Let me bring some examples:

  1. people who have a viable request (want something of me) but can't be arsed to provide the full context straight away (so I need to follow back with the clarifying questions) - their main sins are laziness and/or lack of imagination (inability to put themselves "in my shoes")
  2. people who bother me with something I haven't asked for / I haven't expressed any interest in / there's zero indication I care about
  3. people who can't tell the practical difference between synchronous and asynchronous interactions (and when each of those should be applied) - btw. that extends to other popular communication techniques: e.g. publish-subscribe, information radiators, etc.
  4. people who could have done X (the thing they are asking me for) by themselves

The first group is simply egocentric (self-centered). They are able to see the world only from their own perspective. But is it wrong? In fact, it seems to simplify things a lot ... Well, that's correct, but on the other hand - it slows the communication (and coordination) down - because far more round trips are necessary to get anything done. That's why the most effective communicators are the folks with the most flexible minds - the ones who can easily switch contexts and perspectives. The most effective countermeasure here is to educate (well, you still need to collaborate, after all).

The second group is dumb spammers and failed marketers (with zero respect for anyone else's time). The best reaction is to ignore them (as without an effective back-pressure mechanism, they'll easily consume all your bandwidth). But be cautious - they have many tricks in their sleeves: the rule of reciprocity (initiated with a meaningless gesture you haven't asked for), flattery, coquetry, or simply arousing curiosity (e.g., with controversy). Learn to recognize those cheap tricks.

The third group are typically old-timers and people who are used to a very hierarchical interaction style (where every "top-dog" demands immediate and unquestionable attention). My preferred answer is a mix of education (why async would work better in a particular case) and consequence (consistently falling back to the most suitable option in a specific situation).

In the case of the fourth group I simply ask: what would you need to do this by yourself? why is my involvement necessary? why do you assume I'd make a difference here? That's usually enough to close the case.

I realize that for some, I may sound like an asshole ("Are you that selfish that you can't spare a minute someone asks you for? Do you value the minute of your time higher than someone else's minute?"). The truth is ...

  • I don't care :)
  • I don't have a converter rate between my time and anyone else's time - what I usurp is a right to manage my own time myself (no one else is allowed to do that instead of myself)
  • in fact, there's (in many cases) a significant asymmetry you may have omitted - people who claim rights to your time do not bugger you only: they "clone" their demands (/requests) and address several recipients while keeping the illusion of personalization, to maximize the probability of successful interaction

My time is my stronghold. I will protect it at all costs. If you can't understand it, it's your problem.

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