It’s Monday. The best time management tool you have is the word “No”

I was reading this piece, Time Management Won’t Save You, and thinking about it a lot. Some of it I agreed with, other parts of it I thought dumb. However, I did do some thinking after I read this:

In all of these instances, the solution isn’t to become more efficient to accommodate more tasks, more decisions, and more distractions. The imperative is clear: simplify. Reduce the number of tasks you take on, replace decisions with principles, and put structure in place to eliminate distractions.

He is arguing that the goal is simplifying. I agree. But I would be more assertive: if you have too much to do, the goal is to say “no”. You have to say “no” to many things in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. Saying “no” gives you more time to do the things you need to do.

You might find saying “no” hard, but you are doing it all the time. If you choose one task to work on over another, you are saying yes to one and no to the other. If you interview 5 people for a job, you have to say no to the others. It goes on and on.

Part of the reason we think saying “no” is hard is because it implies a judgment on what you said no to. For example, if I hire one person over 4 others, it doesn’t mean the people I don’t hire are bad. It means the person I hired is the best fit for this particular job. If I buy a medium size shirt, it doesn’t mean the large shirt and the small shirt are bad: it means the medium fit best. That’s all.

Likewise sometimes we say “no” when we really mean “not now”. For example, I love chocolate cake, but I might say “no” to it because I am full. I still love the cake, it just isn’t the right time for it.

Indeed, if you find say “no” hard, try “not right now” or  “not this week ” or “not until my next review period”.

Saying “no” is like weeding your garden. Weeds aren’t bad: some are beautiful. But your focus is on what you are trying to grow. That’s all you are saying with the weeding you do. Likewise, that is all you are doing when you are saying “no”. You are maintaining your focus in order to have the best outcome.

Go through all the things taking up your focus. Dump most of them into your “no/not now” list. Enjoy the time you now have to do the things that matter most.

(Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash )

2 responses to “It’s Monday. The best time management tool you have is the word “No”

  1. I really appreciate the idea of the “not now” list. I see how that will mitigate that notion of judging those options as “lesser”.

    Thanks, Bernie, for making me think.