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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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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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