“Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually.
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come.”
Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
You’re on the beach of your dreams, under a sunset that flares with every color you can call to mind, plus a few you can’t even name. You’re listening to music that sets your body and soul tingling with pleasure. You’re making love with an intensity of feeling you never imagined could exist.
“All right, time’s up. Move along there now. Next one, please.”
“Your time is up. We haven’t got all day. You should have done all you need to do by now.”
“But . . .”
“No buts. If you can’t manage Nirvana-like ecstasy, plus a world-shaking orgasm, in three point five minutes, that’s your problem. I’ve got a universe to run here.”Advertising
Far-fetched? Not really. That’s where our world is headed. If it can’t be done in a few minutes or less, forget it. No time.
What do you need to slow down for?
I don’t advocate living more slowly for the sake of it. If you want to enjoy life, you need to go slow because that’s what it takes. Strip away enough time and, instead of the image I started this article with, you’re left with a picture on a calendar, a ring tone on your cellphone, and a quick fumble behind the door. The stuff of great experiences? I don’t think so.
Wine has to mature to become great. Cheese needs time to bring out the flavor. Gabble through the greatest poem at the speed of a sports commentator and you’ll be left with disappointment.Advertising
Why rush through life? Do you want it to be over so soon? Doesn’t it take time to appreciate its joys and experiences?
- Time to learn. Time is necessary to learn, to think, to reflect, and to internalize fresh ideas. The more you rush, the more you are forced to stick with what you already know.
- Time to think. Time to plan, to prioritize, and to choose how best to expend your attention and energy. Doing anything in haste increases the risks of missing key elements, making needless mistakes, and wasting effort.
- Time to enjoy. Rushing through an experience robs it of most of its value. Gobbling down a fine meal, leafing through a work of literature with more than half your mind elsewhere, allocating 10 seconds to see the sunset. You might as well not bother.
- Time for others. It’s not only unpleasant and callous to deny the people close to you your time and attention, it’s downright rude. Why do so many relationships break down nowadays? My bet is that those involved simply don’t allocate enough time to spend together, learning how to enjoy one another’s company.
- Time to be creative. You need time to reflect and see the links between items or areas of knowledge. The human brain doesn’t work well with disconnected ideas or pieces of information. In all those “gaps” where they appear to be doing nothing at all, the world’s outstanding creative minds are hard at work reflecting, ruminating, “noodling” with odd ideas—tinkering with patterns and unexpected connections. What you see as the result is a mental iceberg: nearly all the activity that brought it about is hidden below the surface.
- Time just to be. This is the only life you have. How much of it have you missed already because your attention and energy were elsewhere? How much will you still miss, because your days are so filled with activities that there’s no space left to just to live?
Money isn’t a substitute for time. However much you make, without time you can’t spend it or appreciate what you spent it on. Nor is wealth a substitute for love. And making more quick profits is definitely no substitute for true business success.
How much time do you really need?Advertising
How much of other people’s time are you worth? A few minutes? An hour? A day? A year? How long should they take to appreciate the full flavor of who you are as a colleague or a person? Would giving you less time than that mean they sold you short?
Fine, so that’s how much of their time you believe that you’re worth. Now, how much of your time should you give them?
Time is the magic ingredient. Take it away and what’s left is virtually worthless. Rushed, frantic living is no living at all.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and its companion site Slower Living. His recent articles on similar topics include Why a great deal of writing about work/life balance is sadly off the point and Counting your days: A cautionary tale and an idea to get life into perspective. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.
The Gentle Art of Saying 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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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