The quote ‘your emergency does not become my priority’ comes from Bob Carter. “Poor planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on mine.”
When I am mentoring my clients, and we are auditing their time, the first thing I hear is how they set a schedule for the day, and then other people’s needs take over. Before they know it, it is 5 pm and they have nothing on their list crossed off. This pattern tends to repeat for multiple days, and by the time Friday hits their to-do list is even longer then it was on Monday, and the items from Monday are still on the list.
This is a recurring issue for service-based business owners. The mindset is that because the client is paying them, they must jump when the client asks. A business owner may even ask ‘how high’ to jump when a client beckons. The reason? The business owner has made the client the source for money and they are scared (subconsciously) that if they don’t jump, the client will leave and they will lose money.
As women, we tend to allow other people’s emergencies to become our priorities because of one of the following reasons.
- Upsetting the other party. We tend to think that if we say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ that the person who is trying to make their emergency our priority will get upset.
- Being a ‘yes’ (wo)man. Saying yes to people makes us feel important. Women like to feel needed and wanted. So, when someone asks for help, we tend to drop everything and jump to make them the priority, which leads me to number three.
- We like to help. Most women like to help others. When we see someone in a predicament, we want to do whatever we can to help. Women don’t like to see others struggle, especially when they have the solution to the other party needs.
- Our family. Research shows moms put their family members ahead of themselves. They will do everything for everyone else first. Once they have completed everything for everybody else, she will then look at the clock, think of their to-do list, and say ‘ah forget it. I will do it tomorrow’ because they’re exhausted.
Prioritizing Our Priorities
As women, whether a business owner, mom, or otherwise, we need to realize that we have to stop making other people’s emergencies and issues a priority. It is detrimental to our health. If we don’t take care of us first and take care of our to-do list, the stress and anxiety associated with that will have serious health effects. Which leads to us not being the best version of ourselves because when we get stressed, not only do we feel it, those around us feel it too because we treat them poorly.
When you understand that taking on someone else’s emergency can put you behind, it causes stress. It also creates strife within you, and in the lives of those around you. You will begin to create boundaries within your own life where you will start to say ‘no, not right now’ or ‘my apologies, but I am unable to help you right now,’ simply for the sake of your health and sanity.
I understand it is hard not to jump when someone needs help. I have been there, and even to this day, there are times where I choose to make someone’s issue my issue. But I now know my boundaries, and I have trained those around me to know them as well. It was not easy, but it worked and to be honest with you, everyone is still in my life, one way or another. No one left. No one got mad. They were already frustrated with themselves that they could not get frustrated with me.
Here are a few ways to say no:
“Thank you for asking me to be a part of your solution. But at this time, I am unable to help you. Why don’t you try…” fill in the blank with an idea, but don’t do the work for them.
“I understand the situation that you are in, and I would love to support you, however, at this moment in time, I am working on a project that needs my full attention. I would be happy to help you at (enter a date/time).”
“So sorry to hear that you are in this predicament right now and I feel for you. However, I am not able to help you. Maybe check with (enter a name) to see if they are available.”
“I feel for you and your situation, maybe check out this link (insert a helpful google search) for some ideas to help you.”
“Thanks for reaching out to me. I feel bad for you and wish you did not have to deal with this right now. I am unavailable to talk now, but I can call you at (insert date/time) to help you out.”
If you noticed every response started with an acknowledgement to their pain and situation. This says that you do genuinely care, and they are a priority to you. The second part of the response is telling them that even though you want to support them, you truly can’t in the moment. These responses are an excellent way of saying ‘I get you; I love you, but I am already committed to something else right now.’
Let’s talk about training people so that it does not even come to needing a response.
Here are a few ways that I have taught my people:
- Set an email autoresponder. Most of my clients email me their 911s. As a part of my time management protocol is to only check my email at 11:30 am and 4:30 pm daily. If I didn’t, I would be putting out client fires 24/7, and I would not get anything done. I have created an autoresponder that states:
Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 11:30 am ET and 4:30 pm ET.
If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 11:30 am or 4:30 pm, please contact me via phone (or text) at (enter cell phone number).
Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.
Sara L. Clarke
This action has been a HUGE time and life-saver because when the client knows they will not hear from me until 11:30 am or 4:30 pm they tend to solve the problem on their own. About 5% of the emails I receive require action on my end. Also, I do give them my cell phone number, but do you see where I wrote the important note in brackets? I hardly get any phone calls.
- Receiving a ‘911’ call. If a client does end up calling me, I answer the phone, but I will not make small talk. Instead, I politely ask them to get to the point. I quickly answer any questions they have, and if my involvement needs further action, I inform them that I am just in the middle of a project that I cannot step away from; however, they are next on my list, and I will reply with what they need by (enter time). Side note, I ALWAYS deliver before the time I gave them.
- Turn my social media notifications off. Sometimes, people will try and connect with me through social media because they see when I have seen the message. I don’t check these messages until after supper. This trains my people that the instant message option does not work for me.
Training your children. Many people ask me how I can get work done while the boys are home. The answer, it’s easy, I trained them. Here is how:
- I let them know that if the door to my office is closed, it means that I am not to be interrupted (unless someone is hurt). They have learned that saying that there is ‘nothing to eat’ is NOT an emergency.
- When they arrive home from school, I make sure to greet them and give them my time. This means that I do not schedule anything in between – 3:30–4:00 pm. Most of the time, it is a hug, and they are gone. I have found that giving them this time tells them that they are important to me. This prevents them from coming and bugging me for the rest of the day. During the summer, I give them my time at lunch, which seems to fill their cups until they are asking for food for supper.
- I explain to them what I am working on and how it is important to support the client. I share that this time belongs to the client as they are paying me for this time.
- Training your other family members or parents. My parents are retired, and for the longest time they would call and visit during my work hours. Mostly to visit their grandchildren but being the sweet (who’s kidding who here) daughter that I am, I would feel obligated to visit with them as well. I had to get honest and lovingly upfront with them and explain that if I was working in an office that they would not be coming for a visit and the same must go for me working from home. They now will call at lunchtime or wait until after supper – unless there is a real emergency.
There are true emergencies, such as people getting hurt, being sick, forgetting their lunch, losing their shoes in a massive mud puddle, etc., and these things cannot be pushed away or put on hold. There will be times like these where you will need to stop, drop and jump for those you love. But if we truly look at what many call emergencies, they are simply things and tasks that they forgot to do, procrastinated on or didn’t want to deal with until the fire was raging. These items ARE NOT your priorities!
Lastly, I want to leave you with this thought…
“If you don’t want other people’s emergencies to be your priorities, then don’t make your emergencies anyone else’s priorities.”
That’s right! Don’t expect other people to jump when you call upon them for help. Better yet, take control of your situations, tasks and surroundings so that you don’t have an emergency in your life that you need help with. Remember, you reap what you sow.
I invite you to take action on what I have shared with you and choose one item that you are going to implement to change your situations with your people. It is always nice to read about solutions, but it is awesome to implement them into your daily life because that is when you learn to Live Beyond Satisfied™.