There is no asset more valuable than your own time. That’s the only thing you can never get more of. Most leaders will tell you that the way they spend their time is the single most vital ingredient to their own success.

So here’s a question: Are you protective of your time? Do you guard it against abuse and waste? Or are you careless and undisciplined in how you use each minute, each hour? Do you allow other people to monopolize your time or to squander it?

An important part of being successful is learning how to safeguard your precious time—to really be strategic in how you spend it. The question is how. A few tips follow.

How to Protect Your Precious Time

  1. Make some appointments—with yourself. Open your calendar and schedule some blocks of time to be alone in your office, getting stuff done—no meetings, no calls, no interruptions. If you leave your calendar wide open all the time, people will try to take advantage of you, and you’ll end up with no time left for your own productivity.
  2. Say no to things. Remember that you don’t have to agree to do everything people ask of you—to take every meeting or every project or every conference call. Be judicious in how you allocate your own time, and willing to decline invitations and offers.
  3. On a related note, don’t hesitate to suggest shorter meetings. Someone may come to you asking for an hour to discuss a particular matter—but maybe you want to counter with a 30-minute meeting, allowing yourself an additional half hour to work on other things. The only catch is: If you’re going to be setting meeting times like this, you’ve got to enforce those expectations!
  4. Don’t be afraid to say something to those people who constantly schedule meetings or ask for appointments at the last minute. Let them know that you simply need more notice so that you can better accommodate all of your obligations.
  5. Remember to schedule time for all the things that matter to you—not just work stuff, but exercise, personal time, even family time. Again, guarding your time means getting it on the calendar!

Your time is precious—and worth protecting. Use these tips to do exactly that.