In my last post, we talked about the mindset of time management and how we tend to look at time in a variety of unhealthy and unpractical ways. Today, I’d like to talk about the most important word in your vocabulary and mine.
No is an ugly word that us people-pleaser types just hate using. We want to say yes to every little opportunity that comes our way. I’ll take this project, that project, and every project in between. Before I know it, I’ll have 26 hours each day committed to fulfilling the requests I said yes to.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, as I hinted on in my post on focus. It arises from a desire to help any and everybody, to gain approval, and to be looked at as their go-to guy. This thinking leads to scattered, unfocused, and ineffective work.
It’s time to dial myself back and focus on the stuff that matters to me. I hope you would do the same for your life. How do we do that?
By saying no and receiving the benefits thereof:
1. Time Control
If I told you that you could only spend $10 on gas this week, you’d plan each and every car trip very carefully, wouldn’t you? You would consolidate and plan things so that you could operate in the most streamlined and energy-efficient way possible. You would probably even forego a few nonessential drives in the spirit of conservation.
Well, guess what? You’ve only got 168 hours of time this week. Much of that time is lost to pesky things such as sleep and work. You need to manage that time. Forego nonessential, time-wasting activities. When you embrace the power of saying ‘no,’ you are able to jealously guard your precious time.
Frivolously saying yes to every request for your time is the equivalent of opening your wallet and spending all of your cash on each thing you see until you run out of money. The only difference is, you can make that money back. Once you spend time, it’s gone forever.
2. Focused Energy
A few weeks ago, I took on a real estate client that I had no business taking on. She was marginally qualified and highly demanding of my time and energy. I felt like I owed it to her to try to help her find a home, even though both I and her mortgage lender were very up front with her about the extremely low probability of securing financing.
I worked very hard to line up properties for her to see and to answer all of her questions. I also ran down several lenders until I found one who could possibly give her a loan. To be honest, it really wore me out! Two weeks and several hours of my time later, we had to stop looking because of financing issues. The writing had been on the wall the entire time. I was too busy trying to save the world for her to be objective about the situation.
I look back at all of the energy I put into that endeavor and kick myself. Instead of spinning my wheels and expending an immense amount of my emotional, spiritual, and physical energy, I could have been pouring into another client or project that I knew would have the potential to succeed
I’m not trying to say that you should not go the extra mile to help people. That is not my philosophy. However, when your gut says that something is going to be a no-go, you should probably listen.
3. Intentional Development
I am a REALTOR by trade. I’m also an aspiring leadership & small business consultant. I take diverse projects in order to intentionally develop skills that I know will benefit both myself and present/future clients. That makes sense to me.
At the same time, I flirt with crossing the line between being diverse and being spread too thin. I’ve used this thinking as a crutch to justify my desire to take on a little more than I can handle. I have justified doing some silly things in the past just by twisting and contorting them to say they would give me some sort of skill that would “help” me advance.
By getting a little more comfortable with saying no, I will be more willing to only take the projects that will provide me the opportunity to both serve people AND develop skills that I would like to develop.
4. Relevant Experience
You need to hold each project accountable to its relevance in your own situation. If your life’s work is to be a photographer who tells the story of local homeless people in order to raise funds and awareness, then that’s what you should do.
Say no to stuff that doesn’t jive with that. Don’t take a full time job in sales because its “safe.” Don’t volunteer to serve 20 hours a week doing park cleanup. Do volunteer to serve with a homeless ministry. Do say yes to working at a local camera house. Take photography gigs on the side. That makes much more sense.
When you say no to the stuff that doesn’t give you the experience you need, you can say yes to the stuff that will.
5. Renewed Spirit
Here’s what drains my spirit:
- Striving with trying clients who don’t appreciate or respect my work.
- Slaving over a project that someone guilted me in to.
- Running all over town for meetings that I don’t need to be taking.
Here’s what renews my spirit:
- Working with caring people who are genuinely grateful for my service.
- Serving in a worthwhile cause of my own choosing.
- Spending my day with engaged people who want to do great things in this world.
God has a specific plan and a calling for your life and mine. What a shame it would be if we missed out on what He has specifically gifted us to do; all because we were too busy doing what everybody else wanted us to do.
Don’t let other people guilt you into anything. Don’t guilt yourself either. Just say no.
What do you need to say no to today?