I used to have a boss who would get up early in the morning, exercise, and then dive into his day by meticulously mapping out his tasks and executing them flawlessly. He lived life intentionally. I was lucky to work for him because I learned a great deal just by watching how he handled his daily routine.
It’s true we only have 24 hours in a day. Some people seem to accomplish in one day what takes others weeks or even a month to do. Although it may seem as though they cloned themselves behind closed doors, they actually mastered a secret for productivity that you can put into practice this very day.
That’s right. You’re not going to need weeks to learn this skill.
And once you start using it, you’ll be amazed by how much you’re going to be able to accomplish, too.
The skill is very simple.
It is saying “no.”
“No” is a very powerful word. It has negative connotations because when we were children, your parents often would say “no” when you asked for something. The request could have been as trivial as asking for a cookie or more substantial such as asking to borrow the family car.
Usually a “no” was given for your own good. But there were also times when you couldn’t see why a “no” was the answer for a reasonable request. Often, you felt slighted, annoyed, or angry that you didn’t get what you wanted.
But now that you’re an adult, you usually have the power to grant your every wish (within reason).
So the first question to ask before using this skill is: what do you want?
Do you want to become more successful? If so, then you will need to learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
It’s ironic that saying “no” to certain requests will allow you to say “yes” to the requests that bring you closer to what you want.
There are obstacles to reaching your goals. Those are the areas to pay attention to when using the skill of saying “no.”
Here are a few of them.
Yes, you can be an obstacle to your own success. And if you want to achieve your dreams, you’ll have to learn how to occasionally say “no” to yourself.
For instance, some of the most productive people I know say the first thing they do in the morning is say “no” to the temptation to check their email or social media accounts.
Why? Because these activities drain your time and energy.
Answering emails first thing in the morning diverts your focus from preparing for your day. It is better to spend time exercising, meditating or speaking positive affirmations to yourself. Those routines will replenish your energy, not take energy away from you.
You will also need to say “no” to any negative self-talk. Let’s say you’re hard at work and your day is going well.
Suddenly, you get a phone call that says your proposal was rejected. Or your submission wasn’t chosen. Whatever it may be, it has the potential to derail you.
This is when many people give in to negative self-talk.
“Of course my proposal was rejected. It’s because I suck.”
“My submission was shoddy work. I knew it wasn’t going to impress anyone. No wonder they didn’t chose it.”
These are the moments when you must say no to the negativity. Instead, see if you can learn why a proposal was rejected or a submission not chosen. Many times, it has nothing to do with you. Other times, it may have been because you missed something but if you can discover what it was, then it becomes a learning experience.
You then have learned a valuable lesson, something you can use the next time you submit either a proposal or project.
In a perfect world, other people would realize when you’re trying to accomplish something and either help you or leave you alone.
Alas, that’s not usually the case.
Most people are focused on their own needs. So when you’re trying to be productive, you may be interrupted by someone who believes they need your attention at that very moment.
Another opportunity for you to practice the skill of saying no.
Last night, we watched the movie “Duplex” where a couple shared their new home with Mrs. Connelly, an old lady who lived on the rent-controlled top floor. Assuming she is elderly and ill, the couple took the apartment.
What follows is a funny (but extremely annoying) series of events where Mrs. Connelly is constantly causing havoc for the couple. The husband, a writer, was desperately trying to complete his novel. Every time he attempted to write, his doorbell would ring with Mrs. Connelly demanding his attention. Needless to say, he barely got any work done.
You need to set clear boundaries for people, letting them know when it’s appropriate to contact you and when you’re unavailable.
You need a distraction-free environment to accomplish what you need to do. If you allow other people to distract you, they’ll quickly dominate your time and then feel that it’s acceptable to interrupt you again at a later date.
Make it clear that your time has already been scheduled and you’ll respond at a set time and date when you can give them your undivided attention.
One of the best decisions my husband made (and he only did so recently), was to finally get a mobile phone so we could do away with our landline phone.
Although we were on the “do not call” list, our phone rang constantly. About 90% of the phone calls we received were from organizations asking for money, a software company that we usually love but called way too often with their pitches, and marketing survey companies.
Since doing away with the landline, we now are experiencing the bliss of silence. Our cell phones are for our family, friends, and business associates. If we don’t recognize the number, we don’t answer it. Period.
Just because your phone rings, doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Allow the call to go to voicemail if you’re in the midst of an important task. Even silence your phone so you won’t be tempted to answer it.
And remember to say no to lengthy phone calls. If a business contact calls you, try to steer them quickly toward the purpose of their call. Again, it’s your choice whether you want to answer the phone or not. If you do answer, you still have an opportunity to practice the skill of saying no by limiting your engagement.
Productive people know how to say no and when to say it. It allows them to protect their limited time and get things done. Ultimately, saying no to other things means you’re saying yes to yourself. It is vital to master this skill if you truly want to make a dent in the universe.