This post introduces the productivity and habit formation series called ‘Better You’ that I am planning to write every now and then. I feel that it is important for each one of us to grow constantly and become a better version of ourselves. With that thought in mind, I will be writing about how I form/quit habits and how I drive my productivity. Without further ado, lets dive into today’s topic.
Very often, we come across situations when we are asked to do something that we are unable to do or don’t want to do. It might be a work project that our boss has suddenly asked us to look at when we know we are already loaded with way too much work. Sometimes, it is a social obligation e.g. a friend’s birthday party. Whatever our reason for not being able to commit to that request, we find ourselves being in an uneasy or obligatory state and end up saying ‘Yes’ to the request. We know we want to say ‘No’ and yet we can’t muster the strength to say so.
If you must say yes, say it with an open heart. If you must say no, say it without any fear.
– Paulo Coelho
First of all, it is important to recognise what we are capable of handling, what we really want to do, what we really love to do, what our priorities are, what our long term goals are. That new project that the boss has asked us to take up, friend’s birthday party – we know they are all important things too. Yet, it is important to say ‘No’ to all those things that are not on the priority list so that we are able to pay attention to those that are. Otherwise, we’ll end up not doing anything well. We get carried away convincing ourselves that we will be able to do the perfect balancing act. It is tempting to think that just stretching ourselves a little bit more will allow us to do everything. Just one more hour at the desk. Just one more day or one last time. Just one less hour of sleep. And before we know, we work ourselves to the point of breakdown. Breakdown of health – mental or physical or both, breakdown of relationships with people around us, breakdown of our project/work performance, breakdown of our patience, breakdown of our peace.
Now that we understand the importance of saying ‘No’, lets move on to actually saying it. Once you start the conversation about saying ‘No’, remind yourself that there is no turning back however awkward or uneasy you feel. You know you have clearly prioritised other things over this. There is no point loitering and making things difficult for you and the people expecting an otherwise ‘Yes’ from you. But of course, we can learn to say ‘No’ politely and may be also explain our rationale behind it. There is no need to be rude, just plain simple ‘Sorry but No’ – clear, polite and firm. This is probably the most difficult part of this process but remember, it is not any more difficult than trying to do everything!
You have chosen your priorities and also mastered the art of saying ‘No’ to the less important things or distractions. Now what? Make sure you focus well on the priorities you have opted for. Give them your best and justify your choice of making them your priority amongst a million other things you could have done instead. It doesn’t end there. When life throws new unexpected things to deal with, recalibrate. Reassess your priorities in light of these new developments and repeat the same process again.
In no time, you will undoubtedly start seeing the benefits of this process of prioritising and de-prioritising and also being bold at saying ‘No’ to those low or nil priority things.
If you have any useful techniques for setting priorities or for saying ‘No’, please share them in the comments below. I hope you found this post useful. Stay tuned for the next post in this ‘Better You’ series where I will tell you the story of how I quit my addiction to playing Candy Crush.