Time is finite. You get twenty-four hours per day, 365 days per year. Once a minute or an hour has passed, it’s gone forever. Establishing a sense of richness in your life requires that you acknowledge this limitation, and that you begin to consciously decide how you’re going to invest each moment you’ve been given.

In my work as a professional coach, I’ve found that most people are not conscious of the non-renewable nature of time. As a result, they commit their calendar according to what is urgent, to other people’s demands, or in response to what they believe is expected of them. This approach leaves them with no time to invest in the things that are important to them.

At the end of their week, they feel frazzled, overwhelmed, and frustrated. They wonder why they can’t seem to get control, and what is wrong with them. If this sounds familiar, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you. You simply need a strategy that supports you in using your moments more proactively.

The strategy that I use with my clients involves creating a personal priority list, which we’re going to do in this lesson, and committing time to only those things that support those priorities. This approach requires you to consciously choose what you will say yes or no to. It also requires that you actually begin to say no.

Committing your time based on your priorities not only supports the effective use of each moment, it paves the road to a high quality life. It creates a structure for you to experience life on your terms, and gives you permission to turn away from requirements that don’t support your aspirations.

Ultimately, the potential to experience the richness of life lives in your calendar and you are in charge. Embracing this concept is the first step to finding a place of fulfillment and flow. The next step requires that you define how you want to invest your time.

Your Priorities
A priority is something that is important to you, or something that needs your attention in the present. Your personal priorities will define how you invest time within your life. Your professional priorities guide the allocation of the time that you’ve committed to your career. The easiest way to establish priorities is to define the categories that you wish to commit a portion of your time and resources to.

Personal Priorities

Your life experience is defined by your personal priorities. Areas that could be included in your personal priority list would be your health, your relationships, your career, your financial well being, your spirituality, your home environment, your personal development, and your ability to participate in your community.

Personalize your list of priorities on a sheet of paper.

Professional Priorities

Your career or profession holds a place on your personal priority list because it requires a commitment of your time. I suggest that you establish a subset of priorities within this category because you invariably manage a multitude of demands at work. Your ability to identify the most important areas to invest your time and energy in will allow you to operate more effectively and enjoyably each day.

Some examples of professional priority areas include maintaining inter-office or industry relationships, identifying new prospects or opportunities, managing existing client relationships, developing products or solutions, attending important meetings, increasing your industry or product knowledge, improving your communication skills, managing your financial deliverables or resources, and delivering on the commitments that you’ve made.

Personalize your list of priorities on a sheet of paper.

Take The Calendar Test
Now that you’ve determined how you’d like to invest your time, let’s take a look at how you’re currently allocating it.

• Preview - I’d like you to pull your calendar out, and look at the commitments that you’ve made for the next four weeks.

• Assign – Please assign each committed activity to one of the priority categories that you’ve just established. If an activity does not support any of your priorities, put it under a list marked “Not Prioritized”.

• Take Stock - How many of the items that you’ve committed yourself to support your priorities? How many do not?

• Calibrate – How many of the items on your priority lists made it into your schedule?

At this point in the activity, many people find themselves a bit dumbfounded. It is not uncommon to identify that 50% or more of the activities that you have committed to do not support your highest priorities. Clarity is step one. Now that you have identified what is happening with your time, let’s take a look at how you can take control of your schedule.

Target Time Wasters
Where are you spending time that does not serve you? Are you volunteering for activities because you believe you should? Are you getting roped into participating in projects or attending social events because you aren’t comfortable saying no? Do you bounce from one day to the next without any real commitments about how you will invest your time?

Identify at least five commitments, activities, or habits that are wasting your valuable time. Examples could include volunteering for an organization you no longer enjoy, running errands for others, attending social events with people you don’t care for, participating in water cooler gossip, or failing to commit your day to activities that are important to you.






Name your alternative. Could one of your priority areas move into the timeslot that one of your time wasters currently occupies? List the five commitments that you would prefer to make in place of your current time wasters.





The final step in your process involves terminating commitments that don’t align with your priorities. The framework that follows will support you in winding down commitments that you’ve already made.

In the final section of this report, we will look at saying no to future requests.

• Identify Items to Clear - Find the “Not Prioritized” list that you created in the previous exercise.

• Connect With Your Intent - For each item on this list, ask yourself what prompted you to agree to that use of your time. If your original intent supports one of your priorities, you may want to consider following through on your commitment. For example, I don’t enjoy attending grade school soccer games. This is not a priority for me. However, my children are high on my list of priorities. For this reason, I will attend my daughter’s soccer games. If your intent does not support any of your priorities, move on to the next step.

• Clear Upcoming Commitments - If this is a one-time social engagement or commitment, contact the host or requestor, and let them know that you have a conflict in your calendar. Apologize for any confusion that your mistake may have caused, and let them know that you aren’t going to be able to attend the event or participate in the project.

• Clear Ongoing Commitments - If your commitment is ongoing in nature, such as holding a volunteer position, contact the organization to let them know that you will not have the ability to participate any longer. Offer to continue in your position for 4-6 weeks, while they locate a replacement.

• Celebrate Your Freedom – Schedule something from your priority list into the open time that appears as a result of allowing yourself to say no!

Saying No
You will succeed or fail in your endeavor to establish a rich life base on your commitment to consistently invest your time in support of your priorities, and your ability to say no to requests that fall outside of the structure you’ve defined for yourself.

Most of the clients I’ve worked with have had a really difficult time saying no. This is due to their desire to avoid disappointing others, and their aversion to feeling uncomfortable. You must be willing to experience temporary discomfort in order to preserve your time for things that matter to you. This requires dedication to the focused investment of your time, and calls for you to develop the courage to risk upsetting or disappointing people.

Know Your Own Worth

If you don’t believe that you are worthy of acceptance and friendship, you will try to earn your way into both. This will cause you to accept invitations or agree to requests that do not support you. Conversely, your belief in your intrinsic value will support you in taking the sometimes more difficult, but always more advantageous path of aligning the use of your time with your priorities.

Say Goodbye to Takers

If you are a pleaser, there are undoubtedly people in your life that could be categorized as takers. A taker is a person that will take your time, energy, money, food, or anything else you offer without giving anything back in return. The takers in your life will disappear when you begin to say no.

While it is difficult to lose a friend, it is important to understand that these people were not your friends to begin with. They were opportunists, and they were participating in your life at your expense. You will succeed in life far more rapidly without them attached to you.

Reserve the Right to Think About It

It is quite probable that you are conditioned to immediately agree to any type of invitation that is suggested. A great way to break this pattern is to decide that you are not going to commit to anything on the spot. When a request or an invitation is issued, let the requestor know that you’ll need to check your schedule, and get back to them.

Do Away With Elaborate Excuses

I was watching Oprah Winfrey one afternoon, and she said something that changed my perspective about saying no. She said “No is a complete sentence”. I’d never thought about it that way. I’d always believed that I had to provide an excuse if I wasn’t able to do something that I’d been asked to do. It took a message from my television to wake me up to my right to say no.

The next time someone asks you to take on a project or attend an event that doesn’t support your priorities, simply respond with “No, I can’t do that, but thank you for thinking of me”. Breathe deeply to quiet your thundering heart, and move on to another topic of conversation.

Saying Yes to You
The first few times you decline an invitation or a request, you will be wildly uncomfortable. It is at these times that you must stay centered in the knowledge that you are choosing yourself.

Every time you make a decision to say yes to one thing, you are saying no to multiple others simultaneously. You may not be aware of this, but it is fact. Until you are able to say no to the demands and requests of others, you will never be able to say yes to you.

Ultimately, it is better to disappoint the requestor you will not remember 40 years from now, than to look back at your life, and realize that the person you disappointed was yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Kim Fulcher is a life coach, an author, a speaker, and a Compass Business Owner. She is a woman, a wife and a mother. She loves women, and is committed to their empowerment! Kim is the President and CEO of www.mylifecompass.com, the #1 Women's Life Coaching Program and Personal Development Network for Women.