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Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize

Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
Busy Pond

    Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
    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 Wednesday until we cover the top 10.

    Myth: You don’t have time to prioritize because you’re so busy doing the things that you’re responsible to do.

    Reality: You don’t have time not to prioritize because you’re busy, responsible, and want a good balance.

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    I call it CEO time – as in Chief Executive Officer meeting time.
    When someone has a meeting with the CEO they show up don’t they? (Distractions and postponements never come from the one invited to meet with the CEO)
    Everyone shows up on time for CEO meetings don’t they?
    If you were meeting with the CEO you’d be prepared, too, right?.

    You are the CEO of your career & life so you should have your own CEO meeting weekly. During that meeting with yourself be sure you’re doing the right things and prepare for the coming week. Schedule your CEO meeting and honor it as the most important meeting of the week.

    Given that you are really busy how do you know that you’re doing the right things? Do you know precisely what you’re responsible to do? Do you consider work and outside work when you think of your responsibilities? Even more poignantly, does anyone complain about how you spend your time? Does your spouse grumble about not seeing you? Do your kids protest about having a baby sitter again?

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    This is a reality check – not to make anyone feel guilty. If it makes you uncomfortable, however, thank you for staying with me.

    During your CEO meetings list the things you are actually responsible for accomplishing – the big picture things. This is for your professional as well as personal life. A list of responsibilities would easily be 20-30 long and related to job and home. The list would include the things that show up on an annual job evaluation and family ‘serious discussions’ list. This list will be the touchstone to determining if one is doing ‘the right things’. Somethings you are involved with might be fun, educational, and valuable for building relationships but not really the core of your priorities.

    For example, Marty is a busy executive with an international software firm. He has a couple of kids and has been married 20 years. Although his job responsibilities change every 18-24 months, it is clear what he needs to accomplish. It’s written in his job description and measured. Coincidently he’s given a cash bonus for meeting those responsibilities. At home he and Marsha have job descriptions, too. They came out of a playful ‘what’s my line’ conversation. They include taking care of the kids, taking care of each other, and taking care of themselves.

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    Marty has scheduled his CEO meetings Friday afternoon at 1pm. This meeting is rarely missed. Marty isolates himself sometime by working at home, sometime by working in a meeting room at the corporate offices, and sometime he is in his cube and hangs a ‘do not disturb’ sign for the 1-2 hours it takes for the meeting.

    During the meeting Marty pulls out his list and runs down it to make his own review of his progress toward goals, completion of projects, and use of his time. He decides what things need to be wrapped up before the end of the day and writes a list of actions for the upcoming weekend with his family and week back at work. Marty has a clearly charted course and continues to be a success as a father, mate, and employee.

    Previous Myths:

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    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be able to leave the country for months at a time. She’s the author at ProductivityCafe and she consults with professionals on their productivity.

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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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