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Throw a lifeline to your future.

Throw a lifeline to your future.
A lifeline

    It can be pretty discouraging when after a long week of hard work you realize you are not one inch closer to the future you want.

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    Sure, you’ve worked all out, chopping through tasks left, right and center, fulfilling all your (conflicting) roles for various people in your life, and here it Friday, your brain feels like boiled mush and you’re bone tired. What’s worse, you know in your heart of hearts (or Weekly Review) that nothing you’ve done this week is connected to who you want to be, what you really want to achieve, what you really, really, really want your future to look like.

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    There was just too much stuff from now to deal with – too many looming deadlines, urgent requests, upcoming milestones, all those web sites and emails and decisions, choices, alternatives and options. Not to mention all the past stuff – things you wish you had done better, things you wished you’d not done at all. At least, that was my week – how about you?
    Now before the suicide hotlines and liquor stores start seeing a surge in business, I’d like to suggest there’s a solution to this very discouraging problem. It’s simple, but not easy: Throw a lifeline to your future.

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    The purpose of a lifeline is to pull someone from where they don’t want to be – quicksand pit, raging seas, icy pond, the messy present – to where they want to be. In the movies, the brave and valiant rescuers provide the muscle to pull the limp victim to safety; this isn’t the movies. It’s going to be up to you, buckwheat, to throw that lifeline, hook it onto something solid and start pulling with all your might if you want to get into that really nice future.

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    Here’s how I think you can throw a lifeline to your future:

    • Know what future you want. So what do you really want? Look in your heart of hearts for that really big thing you want. Maybe it’s making a million bucks a month, or fulfilling your lifelong ambition, or finding The Right Girl or The Right Guy. Be honest – there’s only you and me here – and I won’t talk. Now write it down where only you will see it. That’s the big beautiful future you want to get your lifeline around so you can pull yourself to it. Refer to it often. Look at it when you go to sleep, look at it when you wake up.
    • Let go of your luggage. That’s right, stick all the emails decaying in your inbox into a new folder, move all the hundreds of documents littering your desktop and My Documents folder to a new folder, drag all those bookmarks and favorites you just had to mark to a new folder, delete all your saved voicemails, bag every task lingering on your to do list older than a week. Heresy! Blasphemy! Nope: Reality. If you want to get to the future you’ve got to let go of the past, and besides, to be brutally honest, what are the chances you are going to deal with all those dead open loops? Slim to none. Lighten your load. So let go.
    • Know that if other people have done it, you can do it. Go visit a bookstore or library’s biography section – find someone you like, that you admire. Get that book and read it. Odds are good it’s going to be a recounting of someone who had it worse that you, who struggled like hell to pull themselves to the life they wanted, the things they believed in. If they did it, so can you. Not convinced? Go buy or check out another biography.
    • Every single day, do one tiny doable thing to make that future happen, and do it the very first thing. You want to write a bestselling novel? Spend 30 minutes a day writing the very first thing you do. Want to run the company you work for? Do one tiny step to towards that future before you do the rest of you job. Want to write a great app you can be proud of? Spend the first 30 minutes learning what you have to learn and doing what you have to do to make that happen. What about all the things you’re supposed to do? They can wait for all of 30 minutes while you do some tiny, but constructive, step for you.

    This last one – doing one tiny thing to make the future you want happen, and doing it first before all the now stuff, is your lifeline to the future. Grab it!

    Bob Walsh writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    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’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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    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.

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    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,

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    “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,

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    “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.

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    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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