A terrific CEO I work with has a handle on everything he’s supposed to do—except how to say “no.” The result is that he’s starting to annoy clients, employees and family. He’s not alone, employees at all levels, stay-at-home moms, kids, everybody seems to be having that problem and lots of people are writing about it, so I thought I’d add my two cents.
THE QUICK & EASY SAY “NO” SOLUTION
First, create a SAY NO template
- Draw a circle on paper or make a pie chart on the computer representing one day.
- Make it large enough to have 24 segments each divided into fourths representing the hours in a day broken down into 15 minute segments.
- Block out your minimum sleep requirements.
- Make seven copies each labeled with a day of the week.
- Block out any other constants on the appropriate days (exercise, classes, family, etc.).
Next, use the SAY NO template
- It is imperative to print out 52 weekly templates (enough for the year), because digital versions do not work!
- Mark off the time requirements for all appointments, meetings, projects, etc. to which you’ve already committed
- Never agree to do something until you’ve looked at the appropriate day(s) and considered the time required for a task (don’t under-estimate, writing a white paper takes more time than writing a proposal) and the deadlines involved.
- When you do say yes immediately mark out the necessary time.
- When there is no time available for the meeting/project/whatever you’ll know that you need to either remove something else or say no!
The reason the printouts are necessary is that the circle’s primary purpose isn’t scheduling, it’s to avoid over-scheduling and to learn to say NO.
I’ve found that this approach works far better than either paper planners or PDAs because it’s so visual. Also, unlike the others, the circle is finite, as are the number of segments within it, so it’s much harder to mark off more time than exists—kind of like trying to serve nine people from a pie with eight pieces. Sure, you can change allotted times, but that doesn’t include changing the constants in the template because
- sleep time raises productivity;
- it’s well-documented that exercise reduces stress and improves energy; and
- reducing family/relationship time causes unhappiness for everybody involved.
Urgent and/or unplanned stuff always comes up, so why block out all available time when you know you’ll have to eliminate something—say no!
I know, it sounds simplistic, but every person I’ve had try it says that as long as they do it honestly, it works! The payoff is excellent because you’ll
- have more energy,
- better relationships,
- be more productive, and best
- fewer people upset because you didn’t do what you said you would do when you said you would do it
Oh, and like a crossword puzzle, you may want to start off using a pencil.
Tomorrow: finding time to think, dream and innovate.