Here's How to Manage Others' Expectation of your Time

 Last Updated: December 9, 2016

 December 9, 2016

This is a topic I always felt I should write about. I observed frequently that

  1. A few people always called me back if they missed my call.
  2. Some people did not used do that even once.
  3. While a third category of people did that intermittently.

Now if you ask me, what behaviour would I prefer the most? I would say (1). 

What would I prefer the least?

I would definitely say (3).

What about you? Do you agree with me? No? 




Your action sets an expectation in other person's mind. So you called me back the first time, right? Now I would expect that you will call me back the next time too. Now what if you are busy? What if you are in a meeting, or hell, a date? Here comes the conflict. 

You should train people on what expectations they have with respect to the attention you would be able to allocate to them. Train people on their expectations from you, with respect to the level of distraction you can entertain at different points in time.

Suppose you are getting a phonecall from a relative while you're working. Will you attend it while hanging up on your important task? If you don't attend it, would he understand that you are busy? Or would he keep ringing your phone repeatedly?

In another instance, let's say you are getting a Whatsapp message from a friend while you are into an important meeting. Will you reply to it there and then? Or will you send him a templated response? Or will you not open the message fearing that he might know that you've read the message and still haven't replied? Or will you read the message, (doesn't matter whether he comes to know about that) and reply only after winding up your meeting?

Depending on what your response is, expectations will be set in other person's mind for the next time.

triggering response by others by your actions

So in the second example, if you reply instantly, the other person would expect your instant reply the next time too. So if you become an instant-reply-guy by returning peoples' calls immediately and if you fail to do that as a one-off event, the other person would feel there's something wrong, right? That's also true vice-versa.

It's your job to train people on their expectations from your time. 

So the idea is to not be overtly responsive.

At the same time, don't be non-responsive either. Maintain a balance.

Now why exactly you should do this?

Ask yourselves: Won't this help you in some way?


You have to train others if you intend to manage your time better. 

Don't pick up phones when you are busy. Don't reply when you are not in a proper frame of mind / are concentrating on work. Your responses will define their further expectations from you and consequently, their future actions.

For example, moving forward, they might start thinking before disturbing you. Or they might not mind if you don't pick up the phone immediately, understanding that you might be busy.



Do you agree? Disagree? Eager to hear your thoughts in comments!

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