Say no by first saying yes

You have probably heard it said that every time you say yes to a request or a supposed opportunity, you are saying no to something else. In other words, since you only have 24 hours a day and no more, spending any amount of time on another task makes that time unavailable for something else. This means you might have to say no to something you might have otherwise have preferred to do – like spend time with your family or relax by the pool.

You are already doing this whenever you eat in a restaurant or shop at a department store. When you select your meal, you are saying no to everything else on the menu. And when you choose a jacket, you are saying no to all the other jackets on the rack.

This is true; you are saying no by default. But it makes more sense to turn this around by say yes to the things you want to do first – before you receive those requests. You do this by having personal and organizational goals, and blocking out the time in your planner to work on those goal-related activities. Whatever time is left over is the time available for others requests or unexpected opportunities.

The problem is that most people still work on a reactive, first-come, first-served basis, with no specific plan for getting their own priorities done.

You cannot work effectively from a “To do” list since there is no time estimate attached to each item. And we all underestimate how long we think it list of activities will take.

The solution is to schedule directly into your planner those things that you want to say yes to, blocking off enough time to do them. If you block off enough time to include the inevitable interruptions, you will be able to tell by the remaining blank spaces in your planner how much discretionary time you still have available for other things.

This works best with a paper planner; but you can still do it with your electronic handheld device. Regardless, these appointments with yourself to get things done are not carved in stone. If even higher priorities come up, you can still say yes to them by displacing those already in your planner. But it’s a lot easier to say no if you already have your commitments in place.

This allows you to plan well in advance, accommodating the more urgent items in the immediate future. You already know what you want. So make the commitment to get them done. Say yes to yourself so you are able to say no to others.

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