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How to Be Selfish With Your Time, Without Being a Jerk

February 23, 2021 Alexandra Wieland

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I once read this line that really stuck with me: "You can live your life by disruption or by intention." Another way to perceive that is that you can either choose to be distracted or you can honor your time and own every moment.

You see, every person gets the same 24 hours a day to work and live the way they choose. Every day is a gift—a gift where we have total control of our time. Yet, so many of us still complain that we don't have enough time.

What kind of life do you want to live in and out of work? The way to achieve that lifestyle is to start being selfish (selfish, not reckless), while still being mindful of those around you. This means prioritizing yourself and your needs, so that you can show up as your best self every day. This could be considered especially critical in today’s climate with so many employees having the added pressure of performing well while working-from-home in some capacity. 

Here are a few ways to be selfish without being a total jerk:

How to Be Selfish With Your Time, Without Being a Jerk: Woman talking to another woman with pen and pad

Be Inflexible.

We all have goals, projects, and countless tasks we want to crush; however, it's the strategy for completing what we set out to do that often requires some flexibility. So when is it appropriate to be inflexible?

Michael Hyatt writes in one of his blogs that sabotaging our own success happens far too often.

For example, have you ever told yourself, "I will end my work day by 5pm,” only to allow yourself to be derailed by an "emergency" or a self-enforced deadline?

Breaking your own boundaries time and again is guaranteed to leave you stressed, disappointed, and less productive. Define your non-negotiables by asking yourself: What am I committed to today, no matter what?

You have one life. If you declare 5pm your cut-off, honor it! Think of who is missing the opportunity to spend more time with you or what commitment you're de-prioritizing for the sake of another hour or two.  As an old mentor once told me, "The work will still be there tomorrow." Use those moments to be inflexible. 

How to Be Selfish With Your Time, Without Being a Jerk: Woman looking at post-it notes on a glass wall

Recognize that not everything is important.

You might argue that hard boundaries haven't or won't work for you. Consider how you think about the way you structure your work schedule and personal commitments. When it comes down to it, is everything you say "yes" to a true priority?

In Greg McKeown's book, Essentialism, he explains the power of pursuing less to achieve more, explaining that you have to make trade-offs to be successful. This is especially vital when you account for all of the distractions that partial or entirely remote work can present.

The key takeaway is that you have to stop treating everything as important and become more selective. It becomes increasingly difficult to consistently make effective choices when you don't protect your most valuable asset: you. This means recognizing when you aren't getting enough sleep, understanding the importance of nourishing your body with wholesome foods, and managing both your physical and mental health. Ask yourself each week, "How am I nurturing my body (physical health), balance (relationships), being (emotional health/spirituality), and business (achieving more while working less)?

How to Be Selfish With Your Time, Without Being a Jerk: Man looking at his watch

Understand only YOU can prioritize your life.

You can wait until tomorrow or you can start committing to yourself today. Our SHIFT Consulting team partners with our clients to gain perspective on how they're approaching each day, week, and ultimately their life. It starts as an inward exercise and then transforms into a regular practice when we start taking full ownership and drive our intent through and with others.

You may be saying to yourself something like:

  • "You don't understand... I'm just too busy!"
  • "There's just not enough time."
  • "This won't work, I'm not even going to try it."
  • "If I'm selfish, others won't like me."
  • "I'll be missing out on opportunities to elevate myself." 

I'm here to tell you that those thoughts are normal, but detrimental to your success. So, challenge yourself to shift your mindset. Set firm boundaries, get crystal clear on your priorities, and put a plan into motion to help you make weekly progress. It's time to learn to respect and value your time, when you do, great opportunities will surface.

Woman and child video calling on the phone

Say "No" so you can say "Yes"


We see this pay dividends when, for example, our clients engage in our Performance Works program as a way to invest in their people. We work with folks who already perform at a consistently high level, and we support their desire to up their game. This doesn't come without sacrifice. They learn how to gracefully say "no" to what doesn't matter and center their focus on the chief accomplishment they are committed to.

Practice conveying your intent to others to set expectations, foster accountability, and embrace your power to choose. 

A woman leaning back on her chair and resting

Time doesn't discriminate

While we all get the same amount every day, how we use it varies significantly. In the grand scheme of things, time is finite and you should treat it as such no matter where you’re working, what you’re working on, or with whom you’re working. Spend your time on essential tasks so that you get a return on what is most essential to you. 

Cherish your precious gift by using it wisely and sharing your experience with others, especially with those who haven't discovered the amazing results of being selfish with time. They won't think you're a jerk. They'll thank you.


Activate Your Intentions!

We created the Ultimate Intentions Activator to help you find your ideal starting point for each week. The Activator is your how-to guide for getting clear on what's most important to you, setting your intentions, and determining how you'll accomplish what you set out to do.

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TOPICS: High Performance