By: Laurie Gerber
You live in the information age, which means you could spend the next month just reading all the blogs ever written about the new year and still not get through them all. Your loved ones, students, and clients are able to reach you through seven different avenues at once.
Argh! There’s just no way for you to sift through all that information and get to everything you might like to get to, or others might like you to get to, in a day. This can be especially true after the holidays as you feel yourself being pulled in many directions. It can be hard to judge what is most important.
[Related: 5 Tips to Improve Focus and Get Things Done]
However, instead of making these hard choices, most of you try to avoid deciding altogether and just say “yes” to everything. Unfortunately, someone will always pay the price in the long run, there is no free ride. If you do say “yes” to too many things, you will eventually destroy your health, fail at many of the things to which you’ve said yes, get into trouble, lose that responsibility (and someone’s trust), or blow up at the people whom you perceive to be in control of your time.
But, in actuality, you are in control of your time, and your relationship with time is one of the most important relationships of your entire life. Time is the currency of your life: it’s all you’ve got to play with when figuring out what impact you want to make. I recommend treating the process of choosing how to spend your time with a lot more sanctity, starting today. Here’s how:
1) Admit it.
Managing time isn’t easy, natural, or taught in school. However, it is something you need to master, and you probably haven’t yet.
2) What’s your flavor?
Your relationship with time has a particular style and with that, its very own pitfalls. Write out your flavor. Here are some examples:
- “I just add and add, and work and work, until it all explodes. I get sick and others have to pick up the pieces.”
- “I just say yes until all the time is filled, including my sleep time, and then wonder why I never feel like a real grown-up or leader.”
3) Declare your Yeses.
Decide on your most important yeses. For me, they are: excelling in my career, doing public events to greater and greater numbers of people, spending quality time with my husband and kids, exercise, and meditation. (That means I do not dedicate a ton of time to cooking, crafts, mindless internet surfing, Facebook, or socializing outside of work — though at other times in my life, those things were important yeses.)
Please note that focus areas may change as life stage does. For example, at some point, my kids will be out of the house or I may feel I’ve reached a certain level in my career. At those time, my most important yeses will change to reflect that.
4) Articulate your Nos.
Choose your profound nos. This is the toughest part and it will feel like I am asking you to change the very core of who you are, how you make friends, and how you influence people. That’s because I am. If, and only if, you want to expand what you are capable of, or your leadership capacity, you are going to have to learn to say “no”. Though, it doesn’t mean that a particular thing won’t get done. There is a world of possibility for how your goal could get accomplished some other way, or by some other person; you just aren’t thinking that way yet.
Just like those of you with clients of your own, you realize you only have time for a certain number of them. So what do you do when you’re in increasing demand? It might feel contrary to put limits on your client time, but that’s exactly what you will have to do. Here are some examples when it comes to dealing with saying “no” to certain things in your life. See if any apply to you!
- No to more than two support emails between client coaching sessions
- No to taking calls after 9pm
- No to more than X hours of work on the weekend (or during their “days off”)
- No to mundane tasks that would be worth the money to outsource, in order to focus on higher leverage dreams
- No to busy work when you can find a better way
- No to frivolous internet play that doesn’t result in anything positive
- No to clients who can’t pay your rate (they can go to other great trainers at lower rates)
- No to anything you will grumble about or punish someone for later
- No to screen time when kids are around
- No to emails more than seven lines long or six minutes to write
These “nos” seem simple, but they are not. They force you, the no-giver, to rethink how you will achieve your desired results and call on a higher, or deeper, part of yourself. That’s so powerful. Also, in the act of saying “no”, you recalibrate how others see you and how you see yourself. You have become more of an “author” in your life, and because of that, the things you’ve said “yes” to now hold more significance. When you can focus fully on being excellent at your “yeses”, your fear about the “nos” fades away. As long as you set things up well when you say goodbye (“no”), you can expect cascades of pride about all the areas where you have rededicated yourself with a strong and profound “yes.” Don’t believe me? Try it!
P.S. To learn more about being honest and saying “no” with grace and wisdom, download our free guide here: The Art of Being Honest
For the last 15 years, Laurie Gerber has been teaching and coaching adults and children in a variety of settings including lectures, discussion groups, seminars, classroom teaching, tutoring and one-on-one coaching.
Previously published on www.ellevatenetwork.com.