29 February 2012

'No' Is Your Most Powerful Time Management Tool

I’ve made a study for some years on what makes some people successful when others who seem to have the same opportunities don’t achieve their potential and struggle endlessly to get their head above the daily grind. When I was asked to address Mal Emery’s Platinum Group of High Achievers in Sydney it was the perfect environment to roll out a new speech: The Top 5 Implementation Habits of High-Performing Entrepreneurs – How to make exponential leaps in your business , make more money, and still have a life!

I’ve identified 17 key traits but that will take all year to explore! Instead, I’d like to drill into just the top 4 or 5 habits. They make for very interesting consideration.

Key Habit # 1- Successful people know how to stay focused.

Many factors underpin this simple statement.

1. You know what’s important – to you and your work.
2. You’re able to sort the wheat from the chaff when too many opportunities present themselves.
3. You’re able to push back on inappropriate requests, knowing that they’re not going to fulfil your personal goals and objectives.
4. You’re clear what your goals and objectives are.
5. Your self-esteem is high enough to say ‘no’ in some appropriate way, without getting hung up on guilt or a feeling of ‘I mustn’t (or don’t want to) disappoint the requester’.
6. You’re able to ignore potential distractions , including email.
This all comes back to having a clear list or picture of our goals and priorities, a topic I talk about in almost all my speeches, training courses and coaching. If we don’t have clear goals or a vision for where we want our life and/or business to go, how can we possibly be sure we’ve made the right decisions on a daily basis when faced with multiple time choices? That clarity gives us the confidence to prioritise effectively. In a business context it gives us the ability to stay strategic with our focus – keeping to task on the important few activities that will make the long-term difference.

Every day we have to make decisions. ‘ Shall I do this or shall I do that?’ There is no shortage of good ideas and fascinating by-ways to distract us. (I promise you – I’m constantly tempted!) A clear picture of our possible future gives us far greater power to say ‘ no’ or to push back in an appropriate way. (Not in a career limiting or a relationship limiting way, I hasten to add!)

Examples Of ‘No’:

• ‘Sorry but my time commitments don’t allow me to do that’.
• ‘Sounds great but that’s not the focus of my business right now.’
• ‘I love the idea but I wouldn’t be able to give that project the focus you deserve’.
• To a boss attempting to overload you: ‘I’m on ?.. (projects) right now. I’m happy to take this new one on, but which of the others would you like me to defer?’
• Or: ‘I’ll be free to start this in ?. (Give a realistic time frame) . Is that ok or do you need to ask someone else to take this on?’
• To a family member or friend: ‘I’d love to but I’ve already made a commitment to do something else.’ (You don’t necessarily have to explain what that other commitment is. It might be to have some ‘me’ time!)
• If you’re working from home and have a young family: ‘Daddy/Mummy has to work now. I’ll be out to talk to you/play with you at …’ (name the time or show them on a clock, or set an alarm. And make sure you keep to your word or you’ll soon use up your credits!)
• To someone wanting to have a coffee or luncheon meeting but their agenda is not part of your core focus. You’re happy to be helpful but time is what you most need. ‘ That’s a very kind invitation. Can I suggest that we do a phone meeting, rather than you having to drive across town? That will work better for me too.’

Two great questions will help you with this clarity.
• Is this my highest priority right now?
• Should I be taking on this project/opportunity/task or suggesting an alternative?

Today I Was The Overloading Boss!

Mostly we don’t realise we’re doing it! We need our team to point it out!

I was delighted when I read an email from one of my wonderful team, only this afternoon. She wrote: ‘What order do you want me to put everything including the bits and pieces from the last four e-mails?’

It was such a great question. Not only did it clarify my thinking regarding her priorities but it also made me realise I was in danger of overloading a willing, but still fairly new staff member. She’s enthusiastically and quickly learning a bunch of new skills but we all know how long it takes to master new processes. She wasn’t actually saying ‘no’ but she was saying ‘hey, there’s more than I can manage with my hours. Give me help.’

Watch for opportunities to practice saying ‘no’. It’s amazingly freedom-creating.

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