Time management tips give you lots of power – so how do you feel when others’ urgent demands steal that power away? Accomplishing your goals becomes awfully challenging when others’ crises crowd to the front of your line.

Maybe family members count on you to be the strong one. Perhaps colleagues confront you with surprise deadlines or frequent crises with ever-higher stakes. If you aren’t prepared to handle others’ urgency, their agendas will consistently undermine your best plans.

It’s frustrating! And fortunately, it’s workable. You can turn this dynamic around.

How do you protect your priorities without appearing uncaring and possibly jeopardizing your career or straining significant relationships?

You Have the Power to Clear Crisis Clutter! These 7 Simple Strategies are designed help you both stay on track and clarify your relationships.

  1. Remember: Others’ Urgency Is Not Your Emergency. Urgency is often a hallmark of strong personalities. But their crises needn’t become yours! You control your time. So first, try using that time to do nothing.
    • Simply pause. Breathe. Carefully weigh your response. This is a powerful assertion of boundaries in itself.
    • By remaining thoughtful and not matching or reacting to frantic energy, you claim full responsibility over your choices and your time.
  2. Conduct an Independent Assessment. Use the space you’ve taken to explore two fundamental questions:
  • What is your level of responsibility for the problem? Trust your own fair evaluation here. Guilt is an insidious boundary buster. Don’t let it kidnap your time!
  • What is your stake in the outcome? Again, remain as neutral as possible as you weigh this for yourself. What is the consequence of staying true to your own plans versus following an urgent agenda?

you can decide how much time, if any, to devote to problem-solving. If you do wish to be supportive, consider the terms. Are there opportunities here for meaningful reciprocity?

  1. Listen Actively and Compassionately, Without Adopting a Crisis Mentality. Restate the predicament from your perspective. When you re-frame the situation, you:
    • Defuse the drama. Summarizing things calmly and realistically deflates urgent energy.
    • Confirm that you truly understand the issue. Feeling heard helps people relax and listen to your ideas.
    • Find your feet, so you can create a solid base for your own decision. Whether or not the person you are speaking with clings to a crisis mentality is beside the point. (This is a significant boundary issue. You are responsible for your feelings alone!)
  2. Create a Broader Perspective. Urgency may engender tunnel vision in others. You needn’t join them in that tunnel! You can genuinely empathize from a spacious vantage point. In fact, the more separate you remain, the more understanding you can be. (And you are less likely to feel defensive or resentful when you trust your boundaries and know that your time can’t be commandeered.)
  3. Offer Alternatives That Work for You. You stand a better chance of succeeding when you articulate everyone’s baseline needs and build from there. Be sure to make your parameters clear so that your own projects remain on track.
  4. Allow Others Their Responses. This is the hardest part for many! Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is… absolutely nothing. When you set a limit:
  • The ball is in the other person’s court, and so is the responsibility for her or his own feelings.
  • Others may express hurt, anger, indignation or retreat into stony silence. On your end, do your best to cultivate calm openness. Try breathing into your belly if you find yourself becoming anxious as you take this step.

With practice, you’ll find it easier to accept others’ dissatisfaction without defensiveness. Your openness demonstrates:

  • You respect their right to their feelings and
  • The powerful, self-referenced fact that your time priorities don’t require their approval.
  1. Focus on Your Areas of Positive Control. Clarifying your end of relationships takes time. And it rewards you richly. Share what you feel comfortable doing, and specify how much time you are willing to spend doing it. This clarity encourages open communication – and that can lead to genuine progress.

Have the Courage to Reframe Important Relationships. Relationships are often constructed out of unspoken contracts. As you change your end the dance, your “dance partner” may initiate changes in response.

  • Others may be called upon to help, as you become less available for last-minute crises. This expands roles and relationships and can be very enriching.
  • You may be asked to coordinate schedules and priorities more closely with colleagues. Flexibility and collegiality can grow as a result.
  • The road may seem rockier as changes evolve and all parties regain their footing. Ultimately, you benefit. You enjoy more productive, crisis-free time; and, quite often, your relationships grow and deepen.

So experiment, taking small steps as you clear crisis clutter! As you do so, you’ll find more satisfaction with how you use your time.