Protecting Your Time.

sweater // jeans // sunglasses // heels

Okay first of all… every time I wear this sweater on Instagram stories I get a million questions about it. And for good reason… it’s the coziest! I love it so much. This outfit is one of my favorites as I love a good monochrome ensemble. All grey feels a little more interesting than all black?

Today I wanted to share something that has been on my mind quite a bit: the importance of protecting your time. At the end of the day, time is probably our most important resource (it’s up there with money and energy, maybe more important depending on how you prioritize). For me, living in New York and working in such a social industry, time is my most precious resource but I haven’t always treated it as such… it only got worse when I went out on my own to work for myself. Guarding/protecting my time has become a really big priority for me as I’ve gotten older, and I talked about that a little bit here with work stuff and also here when it comes to dating.

The idea for this post came to me yesterday morning on the treadmill as that’s where I tend to work out my thoughts. The first thought I had was a good one: how happy I have felt this month as I’ve been (for the most part) unapologetically putting myself first – especially when it comes to my physical and mental wellbeing. The second was a less good one… and that was the thought that a lot of people might think that maybe I’m a bit of a self important b*tch because unless someone is a part of my inner circle, I pretty much always say no to plans/meetings/press previews/events. I felt bad about that for about twenty minutes and then I got home and did some work and had a conference call with Michelle (we were talking crystals for my upcoming post SO EXCITED but that’s another story) when (completely unprompted, I hadn’t told her any of this) she said to me, “If you let other people’s opinions bother you, they’ll own you!” And that my friends, is just so true.

Outfit Details: French Connection Sweater (also here!) // Paige Jeans // Chanel Purse // Manolo Blahnik Heels // BP Sunglasses (old but these are awesome  and identical – I just got them in tortoise!)

So anyway. About that. First of all. The only reason I have even been able to take embark upon this whole wellness challenge is because I started just saying no to pretty much everything and everyone. And I’m so much happier for it. I look at my calendar and each week maybe there are two or three events or meetings that I’m really excited or passionate about. The rest of it? Free and clear. To work. To write. To have a nice calm life. To see my friends, call my parents, go on dates… do the things that I want to do. Last night I was able to stay home and cook a healthy soup. Tonight, spontaneous dinner plans came up with two of my close girlfriends because my calendar wasn’t blocked off with a million things I thought I “had” to do. I’ve talked to my parents more, I’m seeing my actual friends more, I’m getting 8 hours of sleep every night, and I’m getting to the gym almost every day. It used to be that if you wanted to get on my calendar, you had to do so weeks and weeks in advance. I was that annoying friend.

By saying no, I’ve made room for the stuff that really matters. My close friends and family, work projects I really care about, and my health. All that stuff I listed above. It feels awesome. And if someone doesn’t like it or doesn’t get it, well… cool? I don’t care. Or I’m trying to at least care less. Work in progress.

Today I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for protecting your own time. I hope it’s helpful!!! (And I’d love your tricks if you have your own.) I’ll also say that keep in mind I’m 36. I’ve been blogging for 8 years and working for 16 years. SO, I have less of a need to constantly network. I still do it from time to time (that’s important!) but it’s different at the beginning of your career. (Though you also have more energy when you’re younger… ha!) 

These tips probably are most helpful if you work for yourself, but even if you work in an office/have a boss I think they can still apply!

one // Take meetings as sparingly as possible. Try to make everything an email… from there, decide what needs to be a call. I used to get really overwhelmed by meeting requests. Everyone wants to have a meeting and I still don’t really know why! As bloggers, a big thing is that our PR contacts are always asking for meetings and catch-ups. I love seeing them, but if I said yes I would be in meetings all day and never have time to actually work, write, shoot, edit, etc. I’m a one woman operation over here and content + the site have to come first! I vented to one of my best friends about this (she’s a publicist) and she flat out laughed at me. She told me most publicists would prefer to have a call or an email but part of their job is “making friends.” So now, when I get one of those invites, I say some sort of version of, “Why don’t you tell me what you’re working on right now, and if it makes sense, let’s jump on a call.” Perfection. (For the record, I read every single email and always respond – as long as it is personally addressed to me.) I will still take meetings sparingly, but as I’m so ruthless with my calendar, it frees up time for the things I’m most excited about.

two // Implement meeting free Mondays. Or at least try to. I typically won’t have any meetings or go to events on Mondays. That way I am home all day writing and setting up my posts, emails, social media, etc. for the week. This doesn’t always happen (this past Monday I had a big shoot and an afternoon coffee) but when I do it, the week is almost always so much better… more organized, less stressful… I feel on top of things and can be proactive vs. reactive. There’s nothing worse than being up at 11pm writing the next day’s blog post. That still happens from time to time but I try to always work ahead, and my all work Mondays play a big part in that.

three // Schedule in the things that are important to you at the beginning of the week so that you won’t skip them. I really think that the reason I have been successful at the gym this month (besides being accountable to you guys) has been putting my workouts on my calendar as if they are meetings. The same thing goes for anything else that’s important to you. Maybe it’s watching The Bachelor. Maybe it’s reading. Or cooking/meal prep. Put it on your calendar and it will get done… even if it’s not technically “important.” That’s self care!! On Sunday night I make a big list of everything I need to do for the week. Then I review my calendar. And then I go into the Equinox app and put the workouts (and booking windows) into my calendar so that I a) get a reminder to book the classes I like, and b) have time blocked out to work out every day.

four // Put reminders on your calendar to call/schedule time with old friends/loved ones. I literally put calling home on my to-do list for the day so that I remember, because sometimes I get so in the weeds that I forget! Same goes for scheduling time with one of my best friends who is married with two kids on the Upper East Side. If we don’t make plans every couple weeks we will go months without seeing each other. So every two weeks I get a calendar reminder that says “Email Nicolette to make plans!”

five // If you are constantly being asked by industry peers to “pick your brain,” come up with a consulting fee. This is something I did when I first left BaubleBar and everyone wanted social media advice. For free, of course. If they want to pick your brain, that is consulting work. Of course this didn’t apply to close friends who needed help, but so many acquaintances and random business connections kept coming out of the woodwork offering to take me to coffee in exchange for help. NO. Do not do this. Tell them you’d love to help out, but that your consulting rate is $XX an hour.

six // Say no liberally, but don’t make excuses! This is a personal goal of mine this year as I always feel guilty saying no so I’ll fire off a bunch of reasons why. “I’m so sorry! I can’t take XX meeting… really busy right now! Life is crazy! I barely have time to date/see my sister! I’m so in the weeds!” There’s no need to include that information. “I’m so sorry, as much as I would love to, I’m not taking meetings right now” will suffice. I need to start taking my own advice on that one!!

What about you? Are you protective with your time? How do you avoid an overcrowded calendar? I’d love to hear your tips + tricks/suggestions in the comments.

photography by Trent Bailey.

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Comments

  1. Great post! ❤️ Protecting my time is a priority for me. I’m an introvert and I love being home, so I prefer to go home after my 9-6 desk job on Mondays to Fridays. I’ll probably go out one day of the weekend, but any more than that I get waaay too tired!

    PS. Cute outfit, I totally get why everyone asked about the sweater! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  2. Emily says 1.24.18

    Self care is so important – I think it makes so much sense to schedule it into your calendar like anything else. Makes such a difference when you are paying attention to your own needs – I find that it helps me do everything else a little better.
    xo,
    Em
    http://www.organicallyemily.com

  3. sharon says 1.24.18

    Yes! I was right about your age when I started saying no and have never looked back. I am 44 now and keep saying no. It started with an all afternoon baby shower for my husband’s cousin in the middle of June after I had been away from home most of the week for work. I said that I would happily send a gift or chip in for bigger gift but I would not be there. My mother in law was offended but I really did not care. The original no came from pure exhaustion but my following nos have come from prioritizing my time, prioritizing my family and the people and things that I really care about. Saying no is freeing. Once you say it, you realize that the world keeps turning and no one even really notices most of the time, it becomes easier and easier. I used to say yes to everything out of fear. Fear of missing out, fear of displeasing someone, fear of career limitations etc. Then I would dread having to do or go to something. Now I say no looking forward to the free time with my kids, the evening in my pjs with a book etc.

    • grace at the stripe says 1.24.18

      Haha I love it. And you made me laugh with the baby shower. I have a friend who just has a no baby shower policy. She won’t go. She explains that very nicely to whoever invites her, sends a gift, but refuses to go as she hates them. I have to say, I respect her for it!

    • Julia says 1.25.18

      “no one even really notices most of the time” – THIS was a huge realization for me: that I was spending all this time obsessing over saying yes/no and the other person would literally forget about it in 2.5 seconds 🙂

      love this post, Grace, especially #5 and #6. i work full-time and have been freelancing on the side for 2 years or so, and I’ve started to get a lot of people emailing or asking to meet to “talk about how to get started freelancing.” it is really hard, because most of them are acquaintances or even friends (with the strangers, i’m comfortable being like “Google and start pitching!” ha). but also, it’s a huge time suck when the answer really is… Google and start pitching, ha! giving myself language around how i say no has helped, like your example. i use “i’d love to help, but i’m fully booked right now!” a lot. learning how to decline without doing a bunch of backpedaling (which always makes you feel weird/guilty) is so clutch.

      • grace at the stripe says 1.25.18

        YES… I agree so much Julia! It’s really hard to say no, especially to friends and acquaintences 🙂 “i’d love to help, but i’m fully booked right now!” is so simple but totally does it.

  4. Marta says 1.24.18

    I personally don’t have any issues with my time but if I ever do, I’ll always remember your tips. And last night I tried to follow your tips and went to bed earlier and today I also woke up earlier and I feel a lot better than usual!

  5. Erika says 1.24.18

    I feel like you’re reading my brain with your posts these days! Over the last few months or so, I’ve started really putting myself first, saying no to things that I wasn’t interested in, and spending more time and energy on myself. I feel like personally, I used to say yes because of FOMO, not because I actually wanted to go or be around those people. I’m in the same mindset as you, I just don’t care anymore. I’m going to Law school in the fall and really need to concentrate on putting myself first so that when I start I’m 100% prepared and in the right mindset!

  6. Catherine says 1.24.18

    This practice is so key. I think of it as finding a rhythm that protects my best self, along with understanding that different times in life require flexible priorities.
    I highly recommend the book “Deep Work” for understanding how time management practices impact our life and our ability to accomplish goals we actually care about (as opposed to tasks that distract us from long-term goals). It’s easily the best book I’ve ever read in the business/productivity category.

  7. Jenn Lake says 1.24.18

    Seriously loving this post! I need to get in the habit of deliberately scheduling all of the personal stuff in my calendar and not just work/blog-related things. Such a great idea! Happy Wednesday, lady!

  8. Elizabeth says 1.24.18

    Because I am such an introvert, I have always found saying no easier because I would get nervous meeting new people, attending events, etc. Therefore it was easier for me to give an excuse and say no. But after moving to a new place last year (after living in NYC for almost 20 years) and working for myself now, I actually find that I need to say “yes” more in order to build new friendships, establish new business opportunities and push myself out of my comfort zone. And I’m grateful for those people that are also open to saying “yes” and allowing me in so I can build my business and create personal connections since I moved here knowing no one. It can be hard when you are new somewhere and everyone you meet has their life already situated (friends, work, social life) and may want to say “no” because they are overwhelmed, but you want to make new friends and build your own life there as well. I can see both sides and think it’s good to find a healthy balance.

    • Kellie says 1.24.18

      Fellow introvert here & I absolutely agree with you that sometimes you do need to say yes to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Especially in social situations- I find myself taking on way too much at work & needing to say no, but then not come up with excuses for social events 🙂

    • grace at the stripe says 1.24.18

      It’s definitely about finding a balance… and when I meet someone who is new to the city (if we hit it off) I try to be as helpful as possible and let them in.

  9. Amanda Vaughn says 1.24.18

    Wonderful advice! The power in saying No is so real! Love it!

  10. Gina Michele says 1.24.18

    This post is so on point. It reminds me of something Derek Sivers says “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH” about something, say “no”. For me, saying “no” has been so liberating! It frees up time to create, spend quality time with my son and to take care of myself.

  11. Samantha David says 1.24.18

    I couldn’t agree more with your post! I feel like saying “yes” to everything is something I’m obligated to do because I’m only 24, new to New York, and determine to see and do everything. The reality is, it’s only hurting me! One of my new years resolutions was to say “no” if I’m just not feeling it and it’s going really well!

    http://www.stylebysamantha.com

  12. Alyssa says 1.24.18

    #6! I am so bad about always needing to tell people WHY I say no. I just need to say no and move on!

  13. natalie says 1.24.18

    love this post! I think one of the things that really hit home was the consulting fee. I feel like I’m constantly saying yes to helping others out and answering questions, when I really should be charging (for non-friends). all of this is such great advice and such a great reminder!

    personally, I feel like I’ve noticed all this take shape just by watching you on stories. I love seeing you at home and relaxed more often (does that sound creepy? I think you know what I mean), and going to bed early! I feel like it just reiterates that those who have creative jobs like yours make their own schedule and should take back control of it!

    • grace at the stripe says 1.24.18

      So glad you loved the post. And thank you for the kind words re: stories. It’s been a nice month!!!

  14. Kellie says 1.24.18

    My struggle is definitely at work. I’m a teacher so when I’m asked by other staff members or administrators to do something it is hard for me to say “no”, since I want to be seen as professional & dependable. I got better at it when I had my kids because honestly I had zero time but now that they’re just a little bit older & I’ve started to feel more capable of balancing I’ve started to say yes to a lot more.

    That’s slowly becoming a problem!

    • grace at the stripe says 1.24.18

      I think it’s okay to say yes when you’re able to… you just have to put yourself (and your own kids) first!

  15. Jackie says 1.24.18

    Great points, Grace! I am so confused as to why everyone wants to turn what can easily be emails into phone calls. I used to feel pressured to do them but now I basically won’t. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with saying no and prioritizing/protecting my alone time…and not caring what people think about it!

    • grace at the stripe says 1.24.18

      Right? I just don’t get it. I’m pretty laid back but just hate wasting time. Cheers to not caring! 😉 xo

  16. Kristen says 1.24.18

    Nailed it!!!

  17. Merritt Beck says 1.24.18

    I’m loving that cozy sweater with the nude heels! So cute!!

    xx, Merritt
    The Style Scribe

  18. Erin says 1.24.18

    I actually started this after cutting off a friendship I didn’t realize was toxic until a few years in. I bought a house and had bills and projects all of a sudden that I wanted (and needed) to do, instead of going out and blowing money just to wind up with a hangover. She would get upset with me and just didn’t understand or respect when I said no. I realized that she wasn’t a friend with my best interest in heart until then, when she got flat-out mean. It sucked to cut her off, but it taught me to be selfish with my time and surround myself with people who love and respect me.

  19. Sarah says 1.25.18

    As I mentioned in a comment on a previous blog post, this has been my goal for 2018. One of the things I have the hardest times with is saying no to people who are new to the field, straight out of school, looking for advice on getting into my line of work. I don’t get anything out of these meetings and want to protect my valuable time. But at the same time, I remember what it was like when I was that age and reached out to people for coffee meetings or phone calls. I was so grateful and appreciative for those opportunities–they had a huge impact on my own career. So, when someone emails me to connect, I feel guilty saying no because I know what it’s like to be on the other side.

    • grace at the stripe says 1.25.18

      I know, I feel the same as I definitely had people who helped me when I was younger.

  20. Denise Atwood says 1.25.18

    Great post Grace, and great outfit! Love you!

  21. Lisa says 1.27.18

    These tips are really great, although number 5 stuck out to me in a strange way. It’s probably a lot different for you, living in NY and working in such a social industry. I’ve always been taught to pay it forward, and help out others who reach out (within reason!). If someone reached out to me, and asked to meet up for coffee in exchange for picking my brain, learning more about my background, I would be so flattered, and would love to help out. I would hope that that generosity applied to most people as well!

    However, I do realize that you probably get that request all the time, so it can probably get way out of hand. In general though, I think it’s an amazing thing when can people reach out to each other, ask to connect in a tasteful way, and that happens in a manner that doesn’t involve charging someone. But again, I’m sure geography and status plays a big role in this, so you have to be more discerning and ruthless… Just some thoughts I wanted to share…

    Lisa

    • grace at the stripe says 1.28.18

      I think it’s a volume + location theme.

      When I lived in Boston, I worked as an associate buyer. I probably got asked to meet up for career advice 3 or 4 times a year and always said yes!

      When I moved to New York, I was a marketing manager for P&G and then Coty. The requests probably doubled, and I still always said yes and continued to meet up and help people as much as I could. I found it flattering and was excited to help out!

      When I started working for BaubleBar, that’s when the problem started. With the blog it became even worse. At BaubleBar I probably got asked once a week to meet with someone (I had to be discerning, I helped a lot of girls get internships, and so on and so forth). Now, I (seriously!) get asked probably 3-4 times a week, if not once a day. Add to that the irrelevant “meetings” that everyone wants to have to pitch me their products (I say irrelevant as these meetings could all be phone calls!) I am sorry if I sound ruthless, and I’m still discerning (for friends and even friends of friends I always help, and I probably sit down with a friend at least 2-3x a month to help them with their business/influencer or social media strategy), but the requests are out of control, most of them are from strangers, and many of them are rude when I nicely explain how busy my calendar is!!!

      Totally understand your perspective here, I think it’s a volume thing..after a point it isn’t flattering anymore, and due to the volume if I said yes all the time I would drive myself crazy. I don’t even offer consulting services anymore (charging a fee) as I don’t have time!!

  22. Nicole says 1.28.18

    I love this post! A lot of the things you listed are things I’ve been incorporating into my life better in 2018. I am definitely that annoying friend you have to make plans with weeks in advance, but I’ve been trying to make my weekends more free– it has allowed me time for friends that spontaneously come in town and just time for me. I’ve historically been the worst about time for my own self care. That is a goal of mine in 2018. It’s going well so far! My Mondays are my days to myself, and I’ve already turned down a few opportunities of community involvement to make sure I have time to do the things I love. I didn’t even feel guilty when I turned them down, and one person emailed me back saying she was glad I learned a healthy time to say no! That was super encouraging and I appreciate you taking the time to write this post 🙂