I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and time is becoming more of a reality, or because people have just disrespected my time so much, but I’ve become more and more selfish about my time recently. It pains me to see people who let others dominate their time. I have one very sweet friend who I often try to encourage to be more selfish of his time, because he gets caught up in the most frustrating of situations. For example, one weekend he told me that he was going to take all of Sunday to read and relax on the beach. When I asked him on Monday how his Sunday went, he said, “Well, I didn’t make it to the beach. My roommate asked me to help him build his bed. And then he wanted me to go with him to pick out sheets. Then he got in a fight with his girlfriend and asked if I could have dinner with him because he was stressed out.” Nooooooo! Ugh. I hated that.
I try so often to tell him that it’s okay to tell someone, “I can’t do this today.” “Well it’s not like I had somewhere else I really needed to be…” my friend argued. But he did. He had planned a much-needed relaxing day for himself before his insanely stressful work-week began.
I understand that, in order to have good relationships in your life, sometimes you do need to make sacrifices with your time. But some people always make sacrifices with their time. It’s okay to set some boundaries. It’s alright to create a firm wall around certain hours and say, “This is what I’m doing during that time. Nothing else. If people need me, they can wait.” Here are ways it’s okay to be selfish with your time.
Saying, “No, I need to sleep in”
I need to get some extra sleep on the weekends. I just have to. It’s a part of my physical and emotional wellbeing. So when someone tells me their birthday party will kick off with a 9:30 am hike followed by lunch followed by drinks, I immediately say, “I’ll meet you all for the lunch portion.” It’s not my problem that individual doesn’t value weekend sleep.
Talking is for hanging out
I am extremely busy and don’t have time to be involved in some ongoing, directionless, frivolous text chat—or to take an hour-long frivolous phone call—during the day. There are friends who try to text me about…nothing. The weather. A cute dog they saw. Their period cramps. I just go ahead and let those texts pile up, and then say, “Sorry, busy day! We should get together soon and really catch up!” In other words, you will have my time when we make real time for each other. Not at any point that you feel like texting me about your new shoes.
I always give someone the benefit of the doubt the first time. If someone flakes on me once, I like to believe that it could be a freak incident and this is not the norm for that person. If it happens a second time, I actually give the person a small talking to about how it really messes up my day when they flake on me. Then they’re on probation, and if it happens one more time, I stop being friends with that person. I believe that is more than fair.
Being an efficient driver
I live in a huge city where one neighborhood within it could be a 45-minute-drive from another. I just know that I’ll go insane if I drive around too much. So, if a friend who lives in a neighborhood that’s a 50-minute-drive away asks me to come over, I say, “These are the days I’ll be in that neighborhood. Which one of those work for you?” I’m not driving over to that neighborhood on a separate day. I’m making the most of my drives across town.
They can be late; you’re leaving on time
I’m done accommodating those who can’t get their act together. Or, even if they really just made a mistake, I still need to respect my time. So if I have a coffee date with a friend set from 1 to 2 pm—and that’s all the time I have—and she arrives at 1:30, I’m sorry but, I’m still leaving at 2pm. I’m not going to be late for my next thing because she was late to our thing.
Spend vacation with only the best
Vacation is too precious to be polite about. What I mean is that I enforce strict rules around whom I vacation with. My boyfriend and I both understand that we must both like everyone going on the trip if we’re going to go on the trip. I am not burning my vacation days to be with, for example, his friend’s extremely negative wife. Occasional dinner with them? Sure. Whatever. Vacation? No way.
Supporting those who support you
I will go to my friend’s convention at which she’s speaking. I’ll go to my friend’s one-woman play. I’ll go to my friend’s concert. I will support a friend so long as she supports me back. But some friends just badger and badger me to be at their events, but are never at mine. So I don’t support them.
Ask for solid plans, or you’re out
You know how sometimes, you ask someone, “Hey, on this specific day at this specific time, do you want to do this specific thing?” and they say, “Can I let you know as it gets closer?” I say, “If you can’t give me an answer soon, no worries, but I’ll just make plans with someone else that day.” I’m not going to commit to someone who won’t commit to me. I’m not going to hold that time and day for someone who is only halfway holding it for me.
Alternating who visits whom
Again, I live in a big city, and I have to drive a lot. So I am pretty open about keeping things fair surrounding who visited whom last. I will say to a friend who wants to hang out, “Do you mind coming here since I drove over there last time?” If anyone has a problem with that then…well I have a problem with them.
Not talking to strangers
If what I need to do on this subway ride in order to feel energized and positive about my day is read this book that I brought and listen to my uplifting music, that’s what I’m going to do. So if some stranger sits down and says, “Can I ask you a question? I just need someone’s opinion on this fight I got in with my girlfriend?” I’ll say, “Sorry, I can’t right now.”
Your you-day isn’t a free day
Just because I have a free day doesn’t mean I have a free day. If I have set aside a day on which I need, for my wellbeing, to do whatever I want, without worrying about the schedules or desires of others, I’m keeping that. Even if a friend invites me to something, and I say I can’t go, and she asks, “Why, what are you doing?” I just say “I have plans that day.” Plans with myself.
Taking a scheduling break
Sometimes life gets so busy that I just need a break from scheduling. There will be months when I’m just slammed with invitations and obligations. It seems every 20 minutes I’m pulling up my calendar to check a date and pencil something in, and my next free half-day is in…three and a half months. When it reaches that point, and someone says, “Hey, can we schedule a hang??” I will say, “I’m sorry I’m honestly burnt out on scheduling stuff and need a break from it. Let’s talk in a couple of weeks.”
At home, with your partner
My partner and I understand that there are some nights on which we just want to go to our respective corners and watch our respective Netflix shows on our respective laptops and not talk to anyone. It isn’t personal. We just have nothing left to give. I respect when my partner needs that and he respects when I need that.
Silencing your phone at certain hours
You don’t have to respond to every call and text right away. It’s actually perfectly okay to silence your phone for a few hours at a time—so long as you aren’t expecting an important call. I’ll do this when I really want to focus on something—even if that something is relaxing—without interruption. My sister will survive if I don’t reply to her question of, “Is this dress cute?” right away.
Enforcing one-on-one time
There are some friends who are so special to me that I want one-on-one time with them sometimes. So I’ll plan it. And sometimes others will ask, “Oh, can I come along?” But that would ruin the whole point of the day for me. I’ll say, “I need some alone time with that friend this time.”