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Why Using This Common Excuse is a Perfect Way to Protect Your Time

Why Using This Common Excuse is a Perfect Way to Protect Your Time

Robert was stressed. He had too much on his plate.

He was asked to join different activities all the time, but he had hard time of saying “no” to those requests.

At the same time, he was trying to build his online business and his goal was to be able to resign from his current day job in the near future. Unfortunately, the frequent requests to join various activities were burning him out and made his online business plans virtually impossible.

He felt sad that he didn’t have the time necessary to focus on his business, since the other, non-essential stuff was taking up his time.

Eventually, he sat down and started to figure out his situation a little bit closer.  Quite soon he realized that there was only one way that could help in this situation – even if it sounded like the worst excuse ever.

Still, he decided to give it a try.

Are you saying “yes” too easily?

You’ll recognize Robert – there is probably someone like him in your friends or in your colleagues. Heck, even you could be “Robert,” suffering from the same issues he has with his time.

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His problem was saying “yes”too easily to requests. This way he can keep his “good guy” status alive and he doesn’t have to ponder what others think of him.

However, this “good guy” status has its price, as he is not able to focus on his own personal projects. Instead, he is letting others to dictate his time. And although unselfishness is a good trait in a person, too much is just too much.

So, saying “yes” is a double-sided sword and it can stress you down for good.

Now, I’m not saying that saying “no” is any easier, because it always isn’t. But when you start to feel burdened with far too many activities which are not really related to your personal vision, then you have to reconsider the commitments you engage with.

It’s clearly a time to change your strategy.

Yes, you are the nice guy

If I look at my own experiences in this situation, I can identify two core reasons for doing so (saying “yes” to requests):

  • Not trying to hurt other’s feelings
  • I’m too unselfish

In the first point (when I say “yes”), I don’t have to ponder what others think of me (just like Robert).

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However, it’s a different story if I said “no.” I would probably spend time on thinking what the other person is thinking of me if I said no.

But the bigger reason is that I’m too unselfish. Now, I don’t know about you, but many times you hear how you should help others when they ask your help and that’s totally fine.

However, when I’m too unselfish, I have found myself in situations and activities I don’t like. I feel like I’m obligated to say “yes” – even though I know that my time is wasted.

But is there a way to become a bit more self-centered and protect your time from requests that are not serving your anyway?

Yes…there is!

Are you ready to use a cliché?

Remember that I just said that sometimes I’m almost obligated to say “yes” to something I don’t want to?

Well, just some time ago I got a phone call from salesperson, who was at first trying to get me to donate money for charity. I managed to decline this request by just saying “no,” since I felt that this charity didn’t resonate with me that much.

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However, the other question the seller woman asked me came unexpectedly: “Would I like to order a magazine related to this very charity?”

I tried to find an excuse to get out of the situation and at last I ended up saying, “I don’t have enough time to read that magazine.”

Personally I hate that particular sentence, because in most of the cases it’s just an excuse of avoiding something.

But then the light bulb went on inside my head: saying this sentence wasn’t an excuse after all. I honestly didn’t have time to purchase a magazine subscription and read a magazine that I wasn’t interested in.

In fact, what I did was that I was protecting my time from something that didn’t resonate with me at all.

Like Robert, I’m building my online business on the side and I also want to spend time with my family – as much as possible.

Because of that, saying this common excuse was a perfect way to protect my time.

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Maybe you should try it too?

How to say this common phrase without sounding an excuse?

Here is how to say the “excuse” as easily as possible:

  1. Evaluate the request. You don’t want to decline a request right away. Instead, listen what the person has to say first and then start your decision process.
  2. Use the “excuses” if necessary. If the commitment isn’t supporting your goals or your vision, say “I don’t have time” or “I’m busy.” In fact, I used this very same reason when I was asked to become a president in our local computer club. I said “I don’t have time,” because I had some other activities already going on.
  3. Be honest. Honesty will pay off. If you say that you’re busy or that you don’t have enough time, you should truly mean it. In my situation, I want to dedicate time for my family and for building my online business, so that’s a valid reason for not joining any new commitments. However, if I feel that if the commitment supports my goals or vision somehow, then I’m ready to reconsider.
  4. Feel proud of your vision or goal. When you protect your time, you are also valuing yourself. And if you have a personal vision that you want to fulfill or an important goal to reach, feel proud of them and don’t let external forces steer you wrong. Sometimes finding enough time for your valuable activities may be difficult, so a good way to block the time snatchers is to use common phrases or “excuses” to set the boundaries. This way you are not compromising on executing your vision or delaying reaching your goals.
  5. Say “yes” selectively. No matter what, sometimes you may have to accept a request. This is especially true if a family member or a close relative asks you to do something. Naturally, you want to help you family members (or close relatives) in that situation, but here applies the same rule as in any other situation: too much is too much. You just have to use your judgment on a case-by-case basis if you want to be helpful or not. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to use the “excuses” in this context too. Then again, be honest about your situation and truly mean what you say.

In conclusion

Saying “yes” to too many commitments can very easily burn you down, thus making your stressed since you don’t have enough time for your own activities.

Because of this, you should use phrases like “I don’t have time” or “I’m busy,” if your situation is really like that.

Also, when you use the phrases, you are protecting your time from external forces that are trying to take your valuable time away from you.

Over to you: How do you protect your time?

Featured photo credit:  making excuses via Shutterstock

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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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