Dying Daily #43: Time Thieves

I have a hard time with wanting to be honest and human, but not wanting to complain. My nature is to just say everything is alright and move on, but this isn’t something that helps people connect with you or makes for an interesting blog.

This recent sickness has been a test of this. I’ve wanted to just say I’m fine and push past it, but I’ve also wanted to be honest in how much it has affected me and the setbacks it has brought. It’s crazy to me that I still feel this rundown and this exhausted. I’ve dropped the ball on some things as a result of all of it, which is not like me. Maybe next week we will look at self-compassion.

I just need to wait until I am actually feeling it, right now I am still being hard on myself.

Anyway, because of all of this, I am in a mindset to simplify some things. I feel like I’ve built up some credibility by saying nice things about human beings the last few days, so I am going to wade into one of my less popular ideas about making our time worthwhile.

I really believe that there are some people we need to avoid giving our time to.

There are some people who will take every second you give them, waste it, and then ask for more. They will probably throw a fit if you dare say no.

They come in a lot of different forms.

That friend you don’t hear from until they need something from you, and then they disappear when they have it.

That friend who only talks about themselves, and they can do this endlessly. When they run out of new stuff, they dredge up old stuff, and because they are just so interesting that of course you don’t mind hearing the same story twice. Or 400 times.

The person who comes to you for help, but is really just looking for someone to tell them it will be okay. They will be back to you with the same problem next week. They will present it as being just as important and necessary to talk about as it was last week. And the week before that. And the week before that.

The person who has an agenda/ideology/religion/political leaning/amazing new perspective that they will cram down your throat, no matter what you may already believe and whether or not you even asked. They don’t mind taking up significant portions of your time to tell you about it, and they don’t mind bringing it up more than once.

The person who just wants to chat. All. The. Time.

The list goes on and on.

Take a quick second and think about it, and you will recognize some of these people in your world because we all have time thieves in our lives.

I find that they are often oblivious to their thievery, but those that aren’t often don’t care. What they want or need is more important that what you want or need.

And this is what it comes down to: selfishness, self-absorption, egocentricity, whatever word you want to put on it.

People who are self-absorbed will always take whatever you will give them, and think you owe them more.

And of course they do. As the center of the universe, they are doing you a favor by bringing you into the gravity of their hopes and dreams and problems and memories and opinions on Obamacare.

We feel obligated to help others, and we are told that we should help anywhere and everywhere we can. If you’ve read this blog very much, you know I am a fan of helping others, but I have very little patience for time thieves. I don’t get angry or frustrated with them, because their thievery is driven by their own suffering, but I do say no, and avoid getting trapped by their gravity.

It’s about keeping my limited time, energy and attention where it belongs.

This is all a zero sum game, so every minute I give a time thief is a minute that I have taken from my wife or kids or actual friends. If the time thief exhausts me, it is mental energy that is taken from my clients and the work that I think I am called to do. This isn’t about being selfish ourselves, but about being intentional with our time, of making a good investment with this finite thing we have been given.

Look at the relationships in your life. Are they reciprocal? Are they bringing a return on your investment?

Or, do you have a time thief siphoning off the only thing you really have in this life?

Can you really afford to give that away so freely?