You most likely were drawn to this article because you believe you are a people pleaser. Your friends ask of you one thing, your family another, and your boss is on top of you insisting that a job due tomorrow should have been completed yesterday. You say “yes” to it all.
All of this leaves no room for you or your work. Meanwhile, you’re just going around in circles, feeling as if no work actually gets done. The feeling is familiar to many, which is why it’s important to understand how people pleasing can negatively impact your productivity.
The solutions to reduce your people pleasing tendencies will be simple to implement, but not easy. So if you are expecting a magic pill, you won’t find it here. But, the good news is, with a little change of attitude and practice, you’ll be able to make positive changes in your productivity.
Below you’ll find a list of 6 things to do to stop being a people pleaser and increase your productivity:
Pass on People Pleasing for More Productivity
1. Make Sure it Moves the Needle
Have you heard about the Pareto principle? If not, the Pareto principle tells us that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.
20% of the things you do cause 80% of the effects. This can apply to wealth (20% of people hold 80% of wealth), territory (20% of people own 80% of land), productivity (20% of the things you do produce 80% of your results), and many more situations.
But how do we use the Pareto principle in action? It’s simple. Just ask yourself one question: “Does it move the needle?”
This is a question Brendon Burchard asks himself to determine his focus. If doing the action will help him come closer to his goal, he will do it. If not–and it doesn’t matter how good of an opportunity it is–he will skip it.
“A ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is irrelevant if it is the wrong opportunity.” –Jim Collins
Moving the Pareto 80/20 rule to 87/13
Greg Alexander, founder of Sales Benchmark Index, indexed more than 1100 B2B sales organization and found out that the rule of 80/20 shifted to 87/13. Now the 13% of salesman did 87% of all revenue.
And, this was after the salesman got the sales training and knew about the Pareto principle. But the 13% didn’t just know about the principle, they were rigorous in implementing it.
That’s why I said that these solutions are simple to implement, but not easy.
Asking yourself the question “Does it move the needle?” is easy, but implementing a change of action after getting a response is difficult. Because if you are a people pleaser, telling someone “No” will be a hard act to do.
But as you see above, doing so will yield massive results.
You may say to yourself: but there are a number of people who say “yes” to everything and still appear to be successful! What gives?
The keyword here is “appear” and the next part of the article will explain that perception.
2. Stop Running in Circles
You look around and see all of these people “making it.” They run around, say “yes” to everything, do everything, have the perfect family, perfect life, perfect job, perfect relationships.
But, that’s only what is apparent on the surface. If you actually took time to investigate how these people have been spending their last 5 years, you will most likely see that they are running in circles.
They are using speed instead of velocity and here is the difference:
Take an airplane which goes 700 miles per hour with its goal to reach Miami (point B) from New York (point A). However, instead of traveling straight there, the plane flies around in circles, covering great mileage with an enormous speed but still not getting to the targeted place. The pilot can brag later on that he flew 2500 miles in less than 4 hours, but the truth is that he still got nowhere – that is speed.
Though, if an airplane travels only 500 miles per hour but flies straight from New York to Miami, it will get there in a 2 and half hours. This plane traveled half the mileage (1250 miles) and it was slower than the first plane. Nothing for the pilot to brag about here, except that they hit their goal directly. 
This is the difference between people who seem to be people pleasers and still managed to do everything – they run around in circles thinking that they are getting things done while in reality, they are in the same place where they were 5 years ago.
You may be thinking, “Well I got where I am by being a people pleaser and saying “Yes” to everything.” But, as Marshall Goldsmith said it best: “What got you here, won’t get you there.” And that is the next solution we will dive into.
3. What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There
When you just start out, many people will tell you to take every opportunity there is. And, they may recommend, if there are no opportunities then create some yourself.
This is actually great advice when just starting out, as you have less to do and oftentimes saying yes leads to immense opportunity.
Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Abundance 360 and X-prize has a variation of this in his “Peter’s Law” number 2: “When given a choice, take both.”
So if you are just starting out, you know what to do: say “yes”! But as you to grow and take on more responsibility then you will quickly come to a place where being a people pleaser and saying “yes” to everything becomes a problem.
That’s when the phrase “What got you here, won’t get you there” comes into play.
At this point, you need to start saying no to almost everything – except for the things that “move the needle.”
This is really hard for our minds to comprehend because our mind is a non-stop meaning-making machine. And that means that it looks for a pattern in everything we are doing so that we believe that the thing that worked in the past will work now.
Being a people pleaser may have worked before – but it won’t work now. Convincing your mind that “what got you here won’t get you there” is a difficult task, but you can do it.
You become good by knowing what to do. You become great by knowing what not to do.
So, what else do you need to do become more productive? Procrastination and be boredom! Yes, that’s right. That is the next solution on our list.
4. Procrastinate More
If you are going to create on a big level and do only the things that move the needle, then you need to have off periods – times when you are doing nothing.
This time is necessary for the mind to recuperate even though our minds never fully go off – you can’t stop thinking.
Does this mean that by not doing anything, we can actually increase our productivity?
The answer lies in the difference between idleness and boredom.
Idleness is laziness and indolence – it’s refusing to do what needs to be done.
Boredom, on the other hand, is a pause between inactivities–a deliberate escape from activity altogether.
When you have time to be bored, take that time to cease all activities and do something relaxing such as talking a walk, showering or simply zone out with some great music.
Your conscious mind will relax and enjoy while your unconscious will actually work on your tasks and problems. In these moments of boredom and relaxation, you will find one of the biggest discoveries in your life and work.
It is how how Albert Einstein got the idea for the Theory of Relativity. 
Just because you have spare time, doesn’t mean you actually need to do something with it.
Rest is as important as work – and if you are a people pleaser, start defending your time like your life depends on it.
You may still not be convinced. You may think. “But isn’t everyone who is a people pleaser making it work?” Truth be told, if you do what everyone else is doing, you will end up as everyone else.
As Ramit Sethi said: “When everyone zigs, you zag.” Which is our next solution.
5. When Everyone Zigs, You Zag
There isn’t a sane person in this world who would tell you not to listen to your boss and do as he or she tells you to do.
Yet, here is a story to contradict that notion:
The Story of Shane Parrish
Shane started out his career right after graduation, in an intelligence agency, working with the government within a very niche cyber-related area.
In the first year, his boss would show up at his desk and throw new projects at him almost every single day.
And the projects weren’t the type where you spend 15 minutes and voila, get a solution. They were simply busywork. Shane’s response? “That sounds amazing, but it’s not for me. I’m busy enough.”
Yep, his boss came to him and gave him work and he responded with a “no”.
Shane Parrish was the new kid there, and every single one of colleagues pulled him aside and told him “You’re not going to get anywhere with that attitude.”
But Shane knew the difference between busywork and work which moves the needle. While everyone was zigging, doing everything their bosses wanted them to do and going nowhere with that, Shane Parrish was zagging and focusing only on the crucial work.
Again, telling your boss “No” is quite simple, but not easy.
Enduring your peer pressure is quite simple, but not easy.
Staying on your course when everyone tells you to change it is simple, but not easy.
“The difference between successful and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” –Warren Buffett
But all of these solutions are going to be in vain if you don’t master one simple skill – and that is the art of saying “no”. Being a people pleaser is not a bad thing but you need to know that it won’t get you where you want to go.
And that brings us to the final solution:
6. The Art of Saying “No”
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” –Tim Ferriss
These words ring true no matter who you are or what you are doing with your life. All of the solutions above will work, but they will require that you are able to say “no” to people. And for a people pleaser, that is the hardest thing to do. I know because I used to have big people pleasing tendencies.
Many people feel that they need to have a really good reason for saying “no” because otherwise, others may think that you are being rude or selfish. But the art of saying “no” is the way forward. When you are clear on your purpose of doing work (does it move the needle?), you will have a compelling reason to say it.
But how to actually do it?
To do that, we will borrow the knowledge of Chris Voss, one of the negotiating masterminds who regularly beat negotiating professors at Harvard in their own games.
Say “No” like your life depends on it
So what does Chris Voss actually tells us? Instead of saying ‘No’, say “How can I do that?”
Negotiation, as he put it, is not about being a problem solver, it’s about being a people mover.
So instead of simply saying no, you can confront people – and get your way – without confrontation. And this is coming from a man who confronted terrorists and mass murders and got what he wanted.
So how to do it?
Here is a step-by-step process on how to say “No” without saying “No” by Chris Voss:
- Use the late-night FM DJ Voice (voice of calm and reason that conveys “I’m in control”)
- Start with “I’m sorry…”
- Mirror. (When you repeat the last three words – or the critical one to three words – of what someone just said.)
- Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
Chriss Voss gave us an example of how that looks like in a conversation between a boss who wants everything in a physical copy and employee who wants to go full digital:
“Make two copies of all the paperwork.”
“I’m sorry. Two copies?” (DJ voice + mirror)
“Yes, one for us and one for the customer.”
“I’m sorry, so you’re saying that the client is asking for a copy and we need a copy for internal use?” (wanting to understand)
“Actually – I’ll check with the client- they haven’t asked for anything. But I definitely want a copy. That’s just how I do business.”
“Absolutely. Thanks for checking with the customer. Where would you like to store the in-house copy? There is no more space in the file room here.”
“It’s fine. You can store it anywhere.”
“As a matter of fact, you can put them in my office. I’ll get the new assistant to print it for me after the project is done. For now, just create two digital backups”
A day later the boss emailed her with “The two digital backups will be fine.”
Wrap it Up Like a Gift
We have seen the 6 solutions that help you become more productive by stop being a people pleaser.
The solutions are:
- Does it move the needle?
- Speed vs. Velocity – Why you might be running in circles
- What got you here, won’t get you there
- Productivity involves having time for procrastination
- When everyone zigs, you zag
- The art of saying “No”
So the next time someone asks you something that you know will mess up with your productivity, it’s okay to say “yes” to them but do it like this:
“Yes. Which of the other projects should I de-prioritize to pay attention to this new project?”
If you know a people pleaser or just someone who needs help with their productivity, share this article with them; if it has helped you, it will most likely help them as well.