The trouble with “no” is we keep saying “yes” to everything. We reply yes to phone calls, text messages, emails as they arrive. We say yes to volunteering for new projects, tasks, whatever comes up!  We are hesitant, if not afraid of what would happen, by saying no to a request.

Dictionaries define “no” as a negative answer or decision, and most people act as if it is a four-letter-word! Every day that belief is reinforced from early childhood into adulthood because saying no to a parent or teacher is seen as rebellion. “No” in the workplace is perceived as not being a team player or not carrying your allotted workload.

Unfortunately, by saying yes, we can compromise our ability to honor our commitments, which reflects on our work performance and our business relationships. Continually saying yes also causes more stress, more deadlines, and higher expectations. While “no,” strategically used, will have far-reaching benefits for you and your organization.  It is all in the way you use the power of “no.”

Ways of Using the Power of “No”

Don’t volunteer for additional projects if your bandwidth is already tight.  Your credibility is crucial to your reputation. If you do volunteer, choose wisely.  Does it help you grow additional skills you need to further your career, as well as add value to your organization? How does it support your career plan?  Of course, there are times you must volunteer for additional work because it increases the overall effectiveness of your team.

Organize and prioritize your work and be aware of your time commitments. When your boss asks you to do an additional task, and it will impact your deadline, negotiate either to have it delegated to another or to reprioritize its target date.  Be sure to have substantial evidence for your request, and not that you don’t like the work entailed.

If you are the “go-to” person for answers in your group; and, you are researching the solutions, instead tell them where they can find the answers. Not only does that give you more time to work on your designated tasks, but it helps them become more skilled in their role. One of my clients found he was adding an extra two hours to his day by discovering and relaying back the solutions. Each disruption causes at least a 20-minute delay in getting back to where you left off.

Say no to checking your emails as they come in.  They can be so distracting and take you away from your work. Instead, check them twice a day. Let people know through an automatic response when you will be reviewing and responding to emails.  The same goes for texts and telephone calls.

“No” Supports Your Boundaries

The advantage of using “no” strategically creates boundaries based on your commitments.  It gives you more control over getting your work done.  It also decreases the feeling of being overwhelmed to just feeling whelmed.

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I was speechless when I read Bernard Marr’s article, dated May 21, 2018, “How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-Blowing Stats Everyone Should Read,” that an astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every, single day.  In other words, 90 percent of all the information ever created in the world was created in the last two years! I can’t even imagine. And, it keeps growing faster and faster.

With new processes, ideas, fads, and each of us adding our two cents in social media, things are constantly being created and made just as quickly obsolete as new ones take their place. Blink, and your computer is obsolete.  Blink again and so is your iPod, your cell phone, your job. Even language is affected.  New words must be created for us to even talk about these new concepts and technologies.

The faster the change, the faster people race to keep up.  The dilemma is most of us can’t.  Everything is changing so quickly, it’s humanly impossible to keep up.

Don’t Race like a Hare, Walk like a Turtle

Yet some very successful people seem to thrive in this environment – adjusting to change seemingly effortlessly.  How do they manage when many of us feel we are always struggling to stay current?  Their secret:  rather than racing ahead, they actually slow down!

Do you feel overworked and burdened by tight deadlines?  Whenever I am tempted to fire first, then take aim, to get “stuff” done, I remember watching a turtle. Notice how it keeps its eye on where it is going, walking deliberately and steadily at a consistent pace; but a hare will race in a zigzag manner, seemingly in a major hurry, without a clear destination; only that it has to get somewhere fast.

Does that remind you of today’s business environment?  People are racing like the hare to get things done as fast as possible.  The irony is, running faster doesn’t mean being more productive.  Instead, when you are running, you can miss important information that may be critical to achieving your desired results. You can make mistakes or wrong assumptions.

Successful people realize that rather than react like the Hare, they respond like the Turtle. They s-l-o-w down and focus entirely on the task at hand, in order to be productive. When in doubt, they are deliberate and do three things:  1) ask questions, so they 2) understand, and then 3) they get going!

Ask Questions, Understand, Get Going.

People who thrive take the time to understand the context of what is expected (even fire drills) and how this expectation or request fits into the bigger picture.  That means asking questions to clarify what they need to do.

Ask questions like:

What is the end result I am expected to achieve?

How does this relate to my overall objectives and a bigger picture? (Fire drills can be an exception!)

Who do I communicate with, how often, and by what means (telephone, face to face, email)

How will I address or escalate issues and/or questions?

Do I have all the information I need to complete this task?

What resources and/or support will I need?

How do I know?  (What evidence do I have that I have made a good decision?)

Understanding:

Fast Company Magazine conducted a survey a few years back and results indicated that 50% of employees did not understand what they were asked to do at any given time.  In which group do you want to be: the 50% who understand or the 50% that miss the mark?

To understand, ask questions, questions, and ask more questions, especially if tasks are complicated, to clarify the parameters around successful completion.

Get Going:

Now that the up-front work is done, get going!  Remember to walk like a turtle, so you can take notice of new information or changes and make course directions when necessary.

Not sure?  Ask!

 

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Our time is a valuable, limited resource; and we need to use it wisely.

The following ten tips will create an effective and productive meeting that stays focused and on point, with an engaged and motivated team.

Ten Tips for an Effective Meeting

(1) Request items from participants that they want to add prior to publishing an agenda, which should be sent out at least two days before the meeting with clearly stated objectives, asking yourself:

a.  What information do you want others to leave the meeting with?

b.   What do you want to make sure is covered?

c.    How much time will you allot to the meeting?

(2) What do you want from participants?

a.   What support do you need?

b.   What agreements do you want?

c.   What commitments are needed?

d.   What additional resources, if any, are required?

(3) Make sure all materials needed by the participants are included with the agenda to give everyone adequate time to prepare.

(4) A consistent agenda with time frames for each item creates a productive and on-track environment to quickly reach decisions. An example would be: review objective(s) (5 minutes), action item review (30 minutes), discussion item (30 minutes), round table (15 minutes).

(5) Post norms—meeting etiquette—at each meeting, which participants have agreed to follow, such as one person speaks at a time, meeting times are honored, etc., which will be needed to refer to when, in the heat of the moment, people might forget the rules of engagement. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to keep the meetings on track by reminding them of the norms so that feelings aren’t hurt, emotions are kept in check, and the meeting can move forward.  Healthy conflict strengthens a team. Rude behavior weakens it.

(6) Especially if participants are located in diverse places and face to face interaction is not an option, allot time for getting to know each other. This allows team members to connect with each other and build relationships, which will lead to working together more effectively. One way is for everyone to share a picture, a brief description of their role, and an interesting fact about themselves. (I had—and still miss—two aquatic frogs named Eleanor and Franklin who lived in our bathroom, as an example).

(7) Document actions in a simple table—succinctly describe the action, who is responsible, time-frame for completion, and updates. Each succeeding meeting, you can add comments in the update box. Everything is contained in one place. If agreed to, have a rotating scribe at each meeting that updates the minutes.

(8) Because everyone is very busy, what agreements that were reached can quickly be forgotten. Productive meeting minutes document decisions, actions, and points for further discussion. It documents everyone’s commitments and agreements. It is NOT a transcript of the meeting. Minutes should be succinct, to the point, and specific.

(9) If the allotted time for an agenda item is not enough, ask for agreement to continue discussing this item and bumping another item to the next meeting, having a separate meeting, or table the item for discussion for the next meeting.

(10) Honor time commitments. Running over can impact everyone’s day.  Staying on time keeps everyone focused and energized.

Effective meetings require up-front planning!

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Peter Drucker said “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

When you accomplish a lot of tasks, you may feel productive and efficient; but are you truly effective? Today’s business culture stresses “Do more, faster, with less!”  With deadlines looming, it is easier to just try to do it all, instead of taking the time to sift through everything to find the few key items that are most important to getting the job done.

If you implement the 5 Steps to Being More Effective at Work below, you can simplify your work, accomplish more (really!), reduce your stress (wouldn’t that be nice), and feel more confident in achieving your goals.

Step One:  What’s My Destination? (My Vision)

Determine what you want from your career and what your desired outcomes would be.  The clearer you are on your “big picture,” the more tangible and the easier it will be to achieve.

Step Two:  What Should I Consider? (My Strategy)

As your Vision becomes clearer, strategize on how you will obtain those tangible outcomes.

Step Three: How Will I Get There? (My Plan)

The secret to achieving your Vision is taking the time to plan what works best for you—what you want to do, what you want to change, and what you want to leave behind.

Step Four:  What’s on My Plate? (Making Room for My Plan)

For your Plan to work, you must decide where to focus your attention. Take charge of your environment (physical and mental), clear away clutter, unnecessary appointments, or tasks that detract from your Plan.  Make a list of everything, and prioritize each item from most important to least important.  Items at the bottom will never get down.  They just suck energy, so delete them.

Step Five:  Where’s My Focus? (Staying on Track)

It is critical to keep your focus on what will move you forward toward your Vision.  Create measurements you can use to check if you are on or off track against those prioritized items on your list from Step Four.

 

Although, this exercise will take some time to think about and act upon, as my clients have learned, it is well worth the effort.

Let your motto be:  Do the Right Things, Not Everything!

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What’s on my plate?

So many details competing for attention—meetings, emails, projects…and so little time. It is discouraging, overwhelming, and disheartening.  No matter how hard we try, we can never, ever get it all done.  We just keep getting more.

I tried and it almost killed me. I learned that no matter how many hours I put in, I couldn’t do it all, and was determined to work smarter—what were the right things to get my objectives done, rather than work on everything that came along.

To decide what is really important and what is just getting in the way, step back to get a clearer view of what is on your plate. David Allen writes in his book, “Getting Things Done,” list everything work-related, personal, or community focused to sort out what requires your attention now, what can be dealt with later, delegated to someone else, or unceremoniously dumped. This takes a while but is well worth it.  It gets it out of your head, off of those sticky notes that get lost, and on to one list that can be dealt with more easily.

Now that you have your list, I suggest using these questions as a guideline for further action.

  • How does each item impact the successful completion of my commitments and goals?
  • What can I eliminate because it keeps sinking to the bottom of my list and has just become an annoyance when I see it, or it just does not have any impact?
  • What requests can I say no to?

As you begin to focus on the right things, not only will you feel in control and more confident and less stressed, others will notice too.  Worked for me. It can work for you too.

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