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

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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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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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