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How to create more time for your work by saying No

How to create more time for your work by saying No

(This article was originally published in the first issue of the Productivity Insights ezine on the 12th of November 2010. It is a 5 years anniversary! The Productivity Insights ezine is now 5 years old and has over 2500 subscribers from around the world. CLICK HERE to sign up for the Productivity Insights ezine)

How to create more time for your work by saying No: article by Olga Degtyareva, PhDThe daylight is getting shorter.

Similarly at work, with all those projects you wanted to complete before the Christmas break, you feel like your day does not have enough hours in it. On top of this, instead of focusing on writing your paper or thesis chapter, you have just agreed to help your colleague with their project. So now you have even less time to work on your own goals…

It is as if you sit at the table with a cup filled to the brim with water and pour even more water into it. What happens next is that the water flows over the edge of the cup and down on the table. Similar, to pour any more water into the “cup of your life” you must first empty it. You can do it by saying NO to some of the things that take up your precious attention and distract you from working on your priorities.

Recently, I have completed a big project of writing and publishing an extended single-authored scientific review (O. Degtyareva, High Pres. Res. 30, 343 (2010)). After that I have paused and thought about what I want to do next. I got clear on my priorities. I realised that to create the time and space for working on my goals I needed to say No to some people requesting my time for their projects. I have thought my decision through and said “No” to one of the senior colleagues in our department to his requests of my time and expertise. And even though I have already spent some time working on that project I felt that leaving the project will create time for my own goals which was more important. After that I started to use the newly created space and time to work on my own projects that I most wanted and the results followed!

Once we become clear on our priorities (such as writing up a paper or a thesis chapter) we need to decide to say No to other things that distract us. These three things can help us to say No:

  • If it is not an absolute “Yes” it is a “No”
  • When you say “No” to others, you say “Yes” to yourself
  • You can say No without explaining as long as you are clear with yourself about the decision

There will always be people that won’t like it and won’t approve when you say No to them. This will be a little uncomfortable for you at first. But after a little practice eventually the scale will tip. You will feel good about the space and time you have created, and this will be more important than receiving the approval of others.

If you are used to saying Yes to any requests then it will be difficult for you to start saying No. These examples of possible replies to the demands of your attention and time may help you to start saying No:

  • Some things have come up that need my attention
  • I need to focus on the writing my paper/thesis chapter right now
  • I have another commitment
  • I have no experience with that
  • I do not have any more room in my calendar
  • I am not taking on any new responsibilities
  • I am in the middle of several projects

OK, you have become clear on your priorities and you are almost ready to start saying No to the new demands of your time at work. Now just give yourself permission to say No when it feels right.

Next time a colleague wants more of your time than you have – say No to them. Remember that you wanted to complete that paper or thesis chapter by the end if this year. Honour your intention.

If you like this article please leave a “Like” and Share!

In the comments below please share what do you want to say NO to more often. What do you want to create time and space for in your diary/calendar? Which priority has been sitting on the back burner for too long that you simply don’t have time for?

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