Protect Your Time. It’s Your Most Valuable Possession
I have a new album out this month, “KISS OFF KISS”. It’s 13 songs about a short intimate relationship I had a few years ago. We went on 4 dates over a few months then called it quits. Did we break up? Were we ever together? These are questions I try to answer on the record, sometimes painfully, sometimes playfully.
One of my favorite songs on the record is called Today/Sex, and the crux of the song is about having made time for a date and then having the person I was going on the date with cancel for a reason I didn’t think was very good. As I say in the song, “for some friends and some extra sleep.” This misfire of scheduling was the beginning of the end for us.
You see, I think my most valuable commodity is not in my bank account or the car I drive or even my talent, it’s my time. It’s my presence. If I give you my time, I am giving you my whole self. That’s gold!
My calendar is a reflection of my identity and my priorities. I do a lot of different things – some work, some play, some friends. But when I make time for something, it’s a clear statement that I think it (or you) are worth spending my most precious commodity on.
Over the years, I have learned to “protect my time”. What do I mean by this? I mean that I think carefully before making plans with someone. I try not to do things I don’t want to do, or things that I feel ambivalent about. And I definitely don’t do things just to keep someone from feeling bad or being mad at me. That breeds resentment, which is a waste of everyone’s time.
“Protecting my time” means when I say I am going to do something, I intend to do it, to the best of my ability. I try not to cancel plans because your time is valuable too. Of course, unexpected complications arise. Life is never perfect or runs 100% according to plan, but you’d be surprised how often things line up if you act with the intention of doing what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it. If this is hard at first, keep at it. The more you get used to the idea, the easier it becomes.
Another way I protect my time is by using my calendar as a vision board. If I imagine myself on vacation in February 2023, I put it on my calendar and then try to make it happen. I hold that space and build around it, to give it the best chance of actually happening. If I want to be on tour in October 2021, you can bet that’s been on my calendar long before the first gig is even booked. I find this especially important as a self-employed person whose future work is often unclear. Using my calendar as a vision board helps give my future hours some structure. And gives me things to work towards and look forward to.
You might think all this “protecting my time” makes me rigid or not open to spontaneity. In practice, it’s the very opposite. I never fill my calendar to the brim. I leave lots of open spaces too. Because I am clear about when I need to get something done or already have plans, I am liberated to let the rest of the time chips fall where they may.
I am very much opposed to “grind culture”, so one way of protecting my time is to be very clear about when I am working and when I am not. I’ve recently been practicing a shorter work week, with less work hours. So now my calendar is open to work appointments only on Monday – Thursday 1- 530p. This has been working great! I have been more focused on getting my work done in those hours and have been able to have more time for self-care and friends. “Protecting my time” does not mean less “productivity” – another word I hate.
There’s another lyric in “Today / Sex” that I like a lot. In fact, it’s the chorus:
“When I make time for you, it’s a f-ing gift That you can’t buy in any store so you better be grateful”
Of course I am being playful with these lines, but I hope the gist is clear. I value myself, I respect you, and our time together is precious. In fact it’s the biggest gift we can give each other.
This guest post was authored by Erin McKeown
Erin McKeown is a musician, writer, and producer known internationally for her prolific disregard of stylistic boundaries. Her brash and clever electric guitar playing is something to see. Her singing voice is truly unique —clear, cool, and collected. Over the last 20 years, she has performed around the world, released 11 full length albums, and written for film, television, and theater, all the while refining her distinctive and challenging mix of American musical forms.
Her first musical, Miss You Like Hell, written with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2018. It was nominated for 5 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Lyrics, Best Music and Best Orchestrations, and The Wall Street Journal named it Best Musical of 2018.
Leading her own band, she has performed at Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and the Newport Folk Festivals. A familiar presence on NPR and the BBC, McKeown’s songs have also appeared in numerous commercials and television shows.
While a student at Brown University, Erin was a resident artist at Providence, RI’s revolutionary community arts organization AS220. A 2011-2012 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center For Internet & Society, she is also the recipient of a 2016 writing fellowship from The Studios of Key West and a 2018 residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. McKeown is currently a 2020-21 Professor of the Practice at Brown University.
Her latest album KISS OFF KISS is out now.