4 Scripts to Stay In Control of Your Time - Amber Hurdle | Globally Recognized Leadership & Personal Branding Expert

4 Scripts to Stay In Control of Your Time

September 11, 2013

Photo Credit: “No” by Flicker user, sboneham. Used under the Creative Commons License.


People often take on too much, agree to something they shouldn’t or stop what they are doing to help someone else at the expense of their sanity and priorities all because they don’t want to say, “no.” It’s a simple, one-syllable, two-letter word. Really, it rolls right off of the tongue. So WHY is it so dang hard to say?

In my experience people just don’t want to say, “no” because they think they will sound unwilling, uncaring, indifferent or worse…they just might sound like a total jerk. And who wants to be the office jerk? *crickets*

Let me offer a four ways to either say “no” or at the very least, get the person who is asking to entertain two alternative options:

1. Move on to another source for help who is in a better position to accommodate their request and timeline.


2. Get on your timeline.

But before I do, let me see where all of my pleasers are. It’s OK, raise your hands. There…I see you. I really want your attention, so move to the front row, please. Thank you.

Now listen up. You are going to let more people down if you can’t execute your responsibilities. That could be the people who are counting on your project (clients, collegues, your boss, etc…) OR someone in your personal life (your family, friends who you promised to help unpack, etc…) if you take your work home in the name of helping someone else right then and there. See how you are just exchanging who you are letting down? And I’m not even counting the letting yourself down part.


1. Your co-worker walks into your office and asks you to help them with something, but you are on your own deadline:

“I would love to help you. I am up against the wall until 3:00 today if I’m lucky. Can you check back then and I’ll see if I can help you once I get this monkey off of my back?”

(P.S. They don’t need to know if your deadline is self-imposed to keep a project moving forward or if it is a hard deadline. Hint: don’t tell. It’s your time. Own it.)

2. You are ready to poke your eyeballs out due to the volume of work you are inundated with and your boss asks you to take on something else:

“Right now I am working XYZ project. I would be happy to shift my attention, of course, to this. If I do that <insert consequence of not tending to the former>. Is that OK with you?

(This puts the decision making back in their court. They have to either agree to let you off of the hook for meeting the first expectation or force you to think how you could better delegate the task. Either way, it’s not smothering you.)

3. You are asked to serve on a board or committee and while you would love to, you can barely stop to go to the bathroom these days. (What? You so know that happens. Don’t hate.)

“I would love to do this, but with my current load I’m afraid I would not be able to serve the organization in a way that it needs and deserves. I know I would let you down in the end. I wish it was a different season in my life.”

(See how you show that you are interested, but you are being realistic about not wanting to be another flake volunteer. They’ll thank you for it–trust me.)

4. Your close friend had a terrible day on the same day you are up against a deadline and had a terrible day yourself. She has emerged as the temporary energy vampire is almost demanding a wine date:

“I’m so sorry you had a bad day. I wish I could hang out, but if I don’t meet this deadline by working tonight I’ll be in such hot water we’ll need a wine WEEK!”

(Your deadline could involve a time out for yourself. If you don’t build in down time during intense work seasons, you will fail in some area of your life, even if it’s not professionally!)


See? That wasn’t that hard. You are allowing others to make choices for themselves and you are able to tend to your highest priorities by allowing others to have a peak into your reality. Most people are going to respect your work flow. Those who don’t, certainly don’t deserve your help. You have to train others to plan to gain your help and not come into your world expecting immediate attention. (Think: “your lack of planning is not my emergency.”)

The only catch here is if you can help…if you have to make a sacrifice to be a part of the team, do it. Make enough deposits into your colleagues’ and supervisors’ teamwork accounts that if you have to make the occasional withdrawal to protect your time and sanity, you have not bankrupted the trust of your peers.

But don’t be a martyr. Don’t routinely put yourself (and your priorities) last. TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR TIME.

What are your time protection strategies, Team Moxie? Share in the comments so others can benefit!

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