Joel and I revisit our discussion about productivity tools. This time we discuss:
Have you ever had a situation where a little delay makes the difference between an “important request” and “never mind…”? Joel and I talk about walking that fine line on using procrastination as a tool to see whether some tasks may not be worth acting on ASAP.
How do you figure out when you hit that point of diminishing returns? Joel and Matt cover a few real-world examples…
How do you prepare yourself to have a productive week? Matt asks Joel for feedback on his weekly planning routine and swap a few ideas to shake things up.
How do you get past those little barriers that keep you from doing the things you know you should do? Joel and Matt talk about how they try to deal with this.
Is procrastination sometimes a good thing…or is it always bad? Joel and Matt don’t put off talking about this one.
If you’re like me, when someone starts talking about a new project, you get excited and might want to get involved. This is a great quality, which has served me well both personally and professionally, and something that I never want to lose.
Unfortunately, this tendency can have some unexpected side effects, like overextending yourself. About five and a half years ago, I had put entirely too much on my plate at work and it was really difficult to deal with.
One of the contributing factors was that I worried that if I said no to a project, I felt like the person asking (usually my boss or someone senior to me in the organization) might think I declined because I lacked the skill or ability to do the work. In other words, I was worried they might think I was incompetent.
In hindsight the exact opposite was true.
How many times have you found yourself saying something like:
Nobody wants to be in that kind of situation because it means that there’s something you really want to be doing, but you can’t. I focus a lot of effort on using my time on the things that are most important. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day (and only 168 hours in a week).
I can hear you saying “OK, sure Matt, only spend time on what’s important. But that’s easier said than done. Especially when my boss might think I’m not carrying my load if I can’t take on this new project or task.”
That’s a fair point, however, test my logic in the following scenarios.
Let’s consider two different people, Mark and Sara, who are each asked by their boss to help out with a project.
Who do you think looks incompetent, Mark or Sara?
Whether you say yes or no, there’s always a risk that someone might think that you’re incapable or even incompetent. Let them think whatever they want to but prove yourself and your personal brand by meeting the commitments you make. Your track record is an objective scorecard that you can reference back to.
Quite the contrary.
Doing work. Doing good work. Taking on projects that are new and challenging, or that will take learning on your part. These are all part of growing your career. Saying no, and especially saying no “the wrong way” can make you seem difficult to work with or unwilling to cooperate. This is potentially dangerous territory to wander into.
I say this because there’s a temptation when you’re learning to say no to misuse this developing skill. It may not even be a conscious thing. It’s an easy trap–in fact, it’s natural. If you’ve ever talked with a two-year-old who learned to use the word no, you know how they tend to go overboard.
What I am saying is that saying no in the right situations will help make sure you’re able to focus on getting stuff done. In the long run, this will lead to people seeing your competence because you do the stuff you say you’re going to do and they also don’t mistakenly assume you’re going to do everything that comes your way.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve actually been quite guilty of saying yes to too many things. I rather enjoy the challenge of completing a lot of stuff that I’ve committed to. However, I’ve seen the dark side that can include late nights, exhaustion, and stress that doesn’t need to be there. In those times I realized how much additional risk of seeming incompetent came because I committed to a project that I didn’t have the bandwidth to take on.
I’ve worked hard to develop the skill of managing this particular risk and I highly encourage you to do the same. One of the first places I recommend starting is in situations like the ones above, where you’re saying yes for the wrong reasons.
Do you agree that saying no can prove your competence? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you have something like 12,525 unread emails sitting in your inbox right now? Joel and Matt talk about taming the e-mail beast.
I’ve teamed up with my co-worker and friend Joel Lindstrom to create a bi-weekly podcast on personal productivity, called ProdCast (Productivity Cast). The topics we’re planning to cover are very much in line with the topics of many blog posts here at Connecting the Data–the apps, systems, and strategies that help with personal productivity and time management.
In the first episode, we discuss the format and direction of the show. Along the way, we cover a couple of tips from my recent Skype for Business e-book release.
You can subscribe on iTunes right now or listen to the latest episodes on the web at prodcast.show. We’re joining up with the crm.audio podcast network–so if you’re already subscribed to the CRM Audio podcast you’ll see ProdCast in your feed automatically as well.