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Productivity & Organizing Myth #2 – Can’t stop influx

Productivity & Organizing Myth #2 – Can’t stop influx
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    As a new guest author to lifehack.org and an experienced productivity consultant I would like to start by naming and dispelling common productivity and organizing myths. This series will be posted each week until we cover the top 10.

    Myth: I cannot stop the email, paper mail, and physical things from coming at me

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    Reality: You can stop much of the paper mail, email, and ‘stuff’ (items, articles, things) from coming at you and encroaching on your life.

    There are preventive actions that you can take to reduce the influx of stuff being delivered to you. These are proactive steps that you must take and will feel so worthwhile when complete! Let’s look at a few representative cases that are meant to trigger some of your own efforts. Please do leave a comment with your own specific questions… I can help solve them!

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    Case 1 – Email. Regarding email that piles up in your inbox and you have no interest in reading, stop it from being sent to you. Send a request to the creator of the email saying simply, “Please take me off the mailing list for _________. I am making an email reduction effort and removal from the distribution list would help me. If I find I need that report in the future, I know you’re the one to contact. Thank you for your help on this.”

    Case 2 – Paper mail. Stop all subscriptions to periodicals & catalogs. Yes, this is dramatic but you really aren’t reading most of them anyway. Simply call the customer service number listed in the front pages of magazines and throughout the catalogs and cancel your subscription. Be sure to say, “Please cancel my subscription and send the refund to me at the address you have. Also, please delete or mark my record so that no future mailings of any sort are sent to me.” With that done, sit back and imagine the vast relief you’ll have without a backlog of periodicals piled high reminding you of your lack of time.

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    Case 3 – Stuff. It’s a month after Christmas and Jane has 6 boxes of fancy tea bags that people gave her during the holidays. They’re cluttering her cube yet she doesn’t want to offend those who gave them to her. She doesn’t even like that type of tea. (You can substitute sweater or pens for tea). Jean can give the tea away to people in a distant part of the building. Or, Jean could take them home (and throw them out). Or, she could have headed this off before the holidays by promoting event only gifts. She could have made it widely known that she prefers time with people over things as gifts. By chatting about giving others the gift of time in the form of lunch gift-certificates she could make it pretty clear that such a gift would be her ideal to receive as well as to give.

    You might need to be a little creative and you must be diligent then you can curtail the clutter that threatens to overwhelm – and stop the stuff!

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    Previous Myth: Productivity & Organizing Myth #1 – Born Organized

    Susan Sabo – a traveler who has been to 47 countries. Her organized life has allowed her to go overseas for months at a time. She writes the Productivitycafe.com blog, presents to groups and consults one-on-one with individuals.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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