024: Essential Habits - Saying No



This week we hit our third part of the essential habits for productivity, where Justin discusses the power of saying no. We also have a brief announcement about the podcast at the end of the show!



Announcement: We are pressing pause on Process for the next six weeks so Justin can focus on a big move and new projects for the Guild! See you next on August 16th!


00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about essential habits for productivity – part three – saying no. If you’ve followed along with our essential habits series at all. The first two habits we discussed fell really into the category of routines. That being a mind sweep and a regular review.

00:21 Today we’re discussing a habit that requires a little bit more thought, but as you develop the muscle it gets a lot easier to do. That is we’re discussing the power of saying no. To be truly effective, to be truly intentional, you have to learn to say no. It is the key skill to keeping enough off of your plate so that not only can you focus on what’s important to you, but you also have the margin to recharge. No is saying, well, I’ve got this space in my calendar, I’m going to leave it open instead of filling it with something. No is saying I’m going to my son’s basketball game instead of taking on an extra project at work for an extra chance that are raised this year. Saying no is the manifestation of the idea that you can do anything you want to do but you cannot do everything. And in fact saying no is essentially saying that I’m not going to do this one thing but in the grander scheme of things when you say yes you’re saying no to many things. It’s actually quite interesting that when you say yes you’re saying no to lots of different things because the foundation of a strong no is a strong yes. When you have an understanding of what your yes is in life are the things that you are hands down committed to, it’s a lot easier to say no to the things that are just good enough.

01:32 Strong yeses then are built upon having an understanding of your values and your priorities. For example, I make decisions based upon the wellbeing of my family. So if I get a great job offer that comes and says, hey, we’re going to offer you $200,000 a year, all these extra great benefits, you can work remote, you can do all this stuff, but you’re going to have to travel 30 weeks out of the year, because I already know that my firm base for making decisions starts at my family, it’s immediately a no. Because when you have clarity on what you stand for, you will have an easier time saying no to something that stands in conflict against it.

02:08 Honestly, I think that’s why Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport hit home with so many people, it brought clarity on what people are for, what they really want to say yes to inside, which are focus, relationship, time to think, time to be creative and that enabled them to say no to what they’re not for – interruption, busyness, schedules filled to the brim, every single moment being taken up by some kind of distraction. And that’s really what it looks like when you have a strong yes leading you to make decisions. You can say no to lots of things effectively when you have an understanding of what your yeses are in life.

02:43 Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time today discussing on how you figure out what your yeses are. However, I do want to discuss a little bit about how you can step back and make decisions on what to say no to. Probably the most important thing to do is not make knee jerk decisions. Rarely ever does a decision needs to be made in a moment. So instead take the time to decide what’s right for you. So take time, make the decision that’s right for you and let the emotions fades so you can make a clear headed decision about where you need to go next.

03:12 Additionally, it’s important to evaluate the weight of the decision you’re making. A great metaphor for this is imagining your juggling a bunch of different types of balls. Some are glass and some are rubber. You definitely don’t want to drop the glass balls, but you can get away with dropping the rubber ones. Now in this metaphor the glass balls of the things that are important to you, the things that could really fall apart if you let them go. And the rubber ones are the things that are really not all that important. So if it’s something that you need to do and something that’s valuable to you, don’t drop the glass balls. So whatever you do, don’t drop the glass balls, but it’s okay to let the rubber ones go. Evaluate where your decision and this thing in front of you is on that spectrum and make a decision accordingly.

03:53 Now, if there’s something that has to happen but you don’t necessarily have bandwidth yourself, the question to ask is, can you delegate it? Delegation is an effective method of taking on more work and doing more things, but doing the things that only you’re good at or you want to do and delegating the rest. So for a professional in a corporate environment, this looks like maybe delegating down to a direct report or to another team that’s better to handle that issue. For somebody who is self employed, this might look like using some automation software to handle a task or by hiring a virtual assistant. For an individual, this may look like determining between you and your significant other which one of you is best to handle the task, or maybe hiring a service to handle it for you, like a cleaning service or a lawn care service. Delegation has a lot of power for things that need to happen in life but aren’t necessarily all that important.

04:43 Additionally, what often comes when we work with people and things try to get handed on our plates is that there can be a false sense of urgency or importance to something. In fact, I believe that this is the number one trap for people pushing them into saying yes to something that they don’t want to do because there’s this false sense of urgency or importance tied to it. If there’s any suspicion of that going on at all, it’s important for you to take a step back, get perspective, and then make a decision. Ultimately, you are the one who handles your prioritization and the things that are on your plate. You may feel like you have to do something, but ultimately it’s always your choice. Go back to the metaphor about juggling the glass and the rubber balls make a decision there based off of that principle and that idea. Don’t make a decision based off of someone’s actual technical manipulation of you to try to do something that you really don’t want to do.

05:33 In the broad scope of things, if you haven’t been very good at saying no, the most important thing to do is just start. And one way that I’ve done this is that if there’s any hesitancy at all, and it’s something that makes sense and I’m not just scared of it, I just say no. No is the way to set boundaries and boundaries are the way to live an effective and healthy life. But it’s important to remember that building boundaries can be messy. When you’re learning how to set boundaries and say no, sometimes people may get offended, sometimes people may get hurt and sometimes you might make the wrong decision, but it’s important to give yourself permission to be messy and then you can apologize and make it right when you’re wrong.

06:09 Saying no has the power to give you the capability to have the enough space in your life to do the things that are most important to you. Saying no keeps the unimportant stuff out. Saying no keeps us on track to where we want to go in life. Saying no allows us to protect what’s most important to us. Most of my decisions when I say no are usually around my family. I can’t commit to doing something after hours. I can’t commit to taking on an extra project or I can’t commit to doing something extra for my side business and it’s because I value time with my family. I value time with my wife. I value the people that are close to me in my life more than the projects that I have going on. Now there are times when these things come into conflict and that’s where we need to just take a step back and try to get some clarity.

06:58 We can always ask people, we can talk to friends about decisions. We can talk to our spouse or significant other, but ultimately we’re the ones who have to make the choice. And saying no and building this habit in the small stuff gets it a lot easier for us to build the habit and say no with the big stuff.

07:16 Speaking of saying no, I have a brief announcement regarding this podcast. Over the next few weeks, I have a lot of stuff going on in my personal life where my family is moving. We’ve got a lot of other balls in the air right now. I’ve got some pretty cool projects that I’m working on for the Productivity Guild. My plan here is to push the pause button on Process for the next six weeks, and then when that six weeks is up, we’ll be back. But ultimately I need to say no to a couple of things so that, I can focus on some broader things that need some attention. So that’s how we’re going to end the podcast today. I’ll see you in six weeks.