Our world is a highly competitive and over-stimulating place, and more and more concentration is needed every day just to stay focused on completing your daily tasks and pursuing your long-term goals.
With the explosion of communications technology, we are more accessible to more people than ever before. Complete strangers can reach you by telephone, cell phone, pager, fax, regular mail, express mail, and e-mail.
They can e-mail and instant message you at home, at work, and on your handheld smart-phone. And with the explosion of social media, requests now find their way to us on our Facebook and Linked-In accounts.
It seems everyone wants a piece of you!
Your kids want rides or to borrow the car, your co-workers want your input on projects that are not your responsibility, your boss wants you to work overtime, your sister wants you to take her kids for the weekend, your child’s school wants you to bake four dozen cookies for teacher appreciation day, your mother wants you to come over and fix her screen door, your best friend wants to talk about his impending divorce, a local charity wants you to head up a committee, and your neighbor wants to borrow your van.
Not to mention the endless slews of telemarketers who want you to subscribe to the local newspaper, contribute to the nearby wildlife sanctuary or transfer all of your credit card debt over to their new card. Even your pets are clamoring for more attention!
We suffer from overload at work—taking on more than we can comfortably deliver in an unconscious desire to impress others, get ahead, and keep up with others’ expectations. Meanwhile our top priorities go unaddressed.
How much time do you waste with projects and activities that you really don’t want to do simply because you are uncomfortable saying no?
Success depends on getting good at saying no without feeling guilty. You cannot get ahead with your own goals if you are always saying yes to someone else’s projects. You can only get ahead with your desired lifestyle if you are focused on the things that will produce that lifestyle.
You will have to structure your work and life so that you are focusing your time, effort, energies, and resources only on projects, opportunities, and people that give you a huge return on your efforts. You are going to have to create stronger boundaries about what you will and won’t do.
Most of us are busy, but undisciplined. We are active, but not focused. We are moving, but not always in the right direction. By creating a stop-doing list as well as a to-do list, you will bring more discipline and focus into your life
Start by creating a stop-doing list as soon as possible! Then make the things on your list “policies.” People respond to policies. They understand a policy as a boundary. They will respect you more for being clear about what you won’t do.
For example, some of my “don’t do” policies on a personal level are:
- I never lend my car to anyone for any reason.
- I don’t lend money. I am not a bank.
- We don’t schedule outside social events on Friday night. That is our family night.
- I don’t discuss contributions over the phone. Send me something in writing.
On a business level some of my “don’t do” policies are:
- I don’t give endorsements for books of fiction.
- I have a policy of not lending my books to other people. They rarely come back, and they are the source of my livelihood, so I don’t lend them out.)
- I don’t schedule more than five talks in one month.
- I no longer co-author books with first-time authors. Their learning curve is too expensive.
- I don’t do individual counseling or coaching. There is greater leverage in working with a group.
- Except for when I am doing a new book tour, I don’t schedule more than two radio interviews in a day.
It is very easy to say what your policies are, and you don’t even have to use the word no!
People respect policies. And it’s likely that no one will take your policy personally, they’ll realize it’s a boundary you have set for all occasions.
Be brave in saying no, stay focused on your higher goals and let people know that you are committed to those goals. People will respect your clarity and drive.
Remember, just as you are in control of your feelings and attitudes, other people are in control of theirs, so if they do get upset with you for saying no…well that is a choice they make for themselves.