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Stop Being a Pushover: Learn To Say No in 10 Steps

Stop Being a Pushover: Learn To Say No in 10 Steps

When I was a child, I never wanted to say no to anyone. I was so eager to please, I found myself agreeing to things I didn’t want to do with people I didn’t want to be around. By the time I graduated from high school, I realized I needed to take a stand and live my own life. I started by flaking out on things, and quickly realized that’s a terrible way to be. Instead I adjusted my perspective and took the steps necessary to learn to say no. Here are 10 steps you can take to stop being a pushover and learn to say no.

1. Prioritize your life

    You need to get your priorities straight immediately. What’s important to you? Write out a list of the 10 long-term goals you most want to accomplish in your life. This makes it easier to make decisions, because you’re basing them on your priorities. When you’re focused on your priorities, you’ll be too busy not to turn down offers.

    2. Envision a path

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      In HBO’s new show Silicon Valley, protagonist Richard Hendricks’ biggest problem is he doesn’t have a vision for his company. This lack of vision is the catalyst for the first season’s plotlines, as investors are excited by his technology, but they all demand to know his vision for the future before they’ll trust him. Series creator Mike Judge hit on an important point. You need a vision of your future in order to reach it.

      3. Stay succinct

        When telling someone no, simply saying no is enough. You don’t need to go any further into reasons why. Simply tell them you’re not interested. High pressure salespeople will prod for more information to keep you talking so they can sway you, but there’s no need to waste any time when you know you’re going to turn them down anyway. Instead of arming your opponent with knowledge, just say no.

        4. Repeat a mantra

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          When you have advanced warning that you’re going to be presented with an undesirable proposition, you have time to prepare yourself. Repeat over and over in your head that you are not going to ____. Even if you don’t have advanced notice, it’s not a bad idea to remind yourself of the things you don’t want to do every so often in case you are. Never forget yourself.

          5. Assert yourself

            Be assertive when telling someone no. If they push, assert your position. As a human being, you have the freedom of choice. Rather than relinquishing that power to someone else, exercise your right to choose your own adventure. At the end of the day, you’re the one that has to live with your decisions, so choose what’s right for you.

            6. Focus on the positive

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              Just because you’re rejecting someone doesn’t mean you have to be rude or cruel about it. There’s no need to tell someone you’re not interested because it’s a terrible idea. Tell them it sounds great, but you’re busy. When you focus on the positive aspects, you’ll maintain the appearance of friendliness while still pursuing your own agenda.

              7. Don’t fear the outcome

                The world won’t end if you tell someone no. They may or may not be upset with you, but it’s not your problem to worry about. Has anyone ever told you no? Did they hold your hand through the entire thing? If it’s not happening to you, you don’t need to do it for anyone else. We’re all adults, and we can handle rejection. Don’t fear rejecting anyone–focus on you.

                8. Avoid being defensive

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                  It can be easy to get on the defensive when rejecting someone. You may feel like you need to defend your stance, but you don’t. Once you’ve said no, it’s over; end of transaction. Don’t defend your choices to anyone. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.

                  9. Stick to your guns

                    Once you’ve said no, stick to it. Don’t let yourself be persuaded. You don’t want people to think you’re a pushover; it’s viewed as a sign of weakness, and some unscrupulous person is bound to take advantage. Pick a lane and stick to it. You’ll be happier in the long run.

                    10. Practice

                      Like everything else in life, saying no requires practice. Start with little things, like the times you already say no. After you order at a restaurant, for example, they ask if there’s anything else you need. Your server will also come by the table a few times while you’re eating to ask if you need anything. You’re likely saying no to these people without even realizing it. Use that momentum to say no to others.

                      Featured photo credit: John Y via therecoveringpolitician.com

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                      Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

                      Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

                      There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

                      How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

                      Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

                      Why is multitasking a myth?

                      The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

                      Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

                      You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

                      Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

                      We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

                      Your brain on multi-tasking

                      Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

                      When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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                      But I can juggle multiple tasks!

                      You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

                      For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

                      Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

                      Why multitasking is failing you

                      Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

                      Multitasking wastes your time.

                      You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

                      In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

                      It makes you dumber.

                      A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

                      You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

                      This is an emotional response.

                      There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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                      Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

                      It’ll wear you out.

                      When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

                      We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

                      How to stop multitasking and work productively

                      Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

                      In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

                      Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

                      1. Consciously change gears

                      Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

                      As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

                      This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

                      2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

                      Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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                      Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

                      This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

                      3. Set aside distractions

                      Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

                      If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

                      Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

                      Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

                      4. Take care of yourself

                      We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

                      Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

                      In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

                      5. Take a break

                      People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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                      Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

                      6. Make technology your ally

                      Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

                      Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

                      The key to productivity: Focus

                      Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

                      Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

                      If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

                      How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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