I am taking two weeks off from blogging. Enjoy this article from the archive! This article was originally published on 13 July 2007.
When I re-published the article on saying no, I began to think about things I could say no to in my life. The original article celebrated an incident, incidentally one of the first, where I was able to say no to something I didn’t particularly want to do. But as I think about it, I realize that saying NO is essential if I want to keep going on the things I want to say YES to. I need to be very clear on what I want and be able to keep all else out.
In Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management, Mark Forster likens saying yes to being in a restaurant. When you order one dish, you are saying yes to that one, and at the same time saying no to the rest of the menu. He says that you must have this type of clarity in order to succeed.
Likewise, in Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (BK Life), Brian Tracy says that with new stuff rolling in as we finish old tasks, we will never be caught up. We have to be able to say yes to our most important task. And that means choosing what we will do as well as what we will not do.
So what are 10 things I can say no to?
- Volunteer activities that land on me by default.
One rule of any volunteer organization is that the people who are already volunteering are generally the people who are gone to when new stuff pops up. As a result of this, I recently spent the better part of a weekend making reusable shopping bags out of discarded bedsheets because the person who suggested the plan didn’t sew.
- Music gigs that don’t pay.
This one may seem mercenary, but it takes time and effort to prepare for a wedding. Weddings are usually fraught with disaster, and as Robert Fulghum observed, “since weddings are high state occasions involving amateurs under pressure, everything NEVER goes right.”
This is a hard one for me, but the truth is I still get sucked into reading and clicking my way through hours on the internet. It is pointless, much like channel surfing on television.
- Too many craft projects.
I enjoy crafting, and it is a good way to relax. But if I have more than one going at a time, I finish nothing, and I get stressed about the unfinished projects.
- Books that aren’t worth it.
I caught myself reading a book through to the end the other week, just because I couldn’t believe it couldn’t get any better. It didn’t. I could have used that time on other books that have a payback in my life.
- Friendships that are not positive.
This is going to sound cruel, but a few years ago I had to cull my friends. Some of them were just not positive influences in my life, and I found myself sucked into constant crises. As I described the actions of another friend, an psychologist acquaintance who had been listening to the conversation leaned over to me and said “Hello! Stalker!”. It was time for that relationship to wither and die.
- Activities I Really Hate But Are Necessary
This is the category that includes grocery shopping and laundry. Both are necessities. I outsource both to my spouse.
- Unnecessary Email.
This includes all the email jokes and urban legends my older relatives seem to think I cannot live without. This leaves me free to answer email from this blog, as well as respond thoughtfully to other emails I receive.
- Social Engagements I Don’t Want to Go To.
There was a time when I would go to things just because I felt an obligation for being invited. I have learned, however, that such parties do not show me at my best. I have learned to politely avoid the social activities I really don’t want to be around.
- Unfocused Home Work.
One of my big problems is that I can get started doing something in the house, then see something else that needs doing, then something else…ending up with nothing accomplished. With focus, I get things done quicker, and more gets done.
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