Get Your Day Back By Saying No

Yep, it happened again this morning. My coffee was hot. I had my task list laid out for the day, and I was ready to seize the day. Then the distractions started.

A coworker walked into my office with a "quick question" that turned into a 30-minute discussion. Then, I got a call to join a meeting that was in progress, because they needed my feedback. I had no sooner arrived back at my desk when I received an e-mail asking for more detailed instructions on a project I was roped into the week before. I looked up and it was noon. I hadn't even started on task No. 1 for the day.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we're sharing insights about time management from Mike Schultz, president of RAIN Group a sales training organization. Schultz hears similar stories from clients across the country. In order to help employees get their days back and become more productive, he offers insight into four things you should decline on a regular basis.

Prune your priorities. The adage goes, if you have 12 priorities, you have none. Schultz notes that many leaders not only have too many priorities, but they also often don't have the right priorities. He suggests that leaders who want to lower the number of priorities and focus on the right ones ask themselves which ones they're excited about. His mantra for this: "If it's not a gung-ho, it's a no." Select five key priorities you need to focus on for the day, and work from there.

Turn down the noise. Office and remote workers alike are being bombarded daily with requests that take their time. If you are being called into too many office meetings, ask the meeting planners in advance about the meeting agenda and how you can be helpful. If the planner only needs you for five minutes out of the 60-minute meeting, arrange for when you can join the meeting to provide that update and leave immediately afterwards. You've just saved yourself 55 minutes.

Keep a "to-don't" list. Most leaders know what they want to accomplish and keep a to-do list to manage their time. But what about a list of what you need toavoid to stay focused. Keep a list of tasks that you should not be doing right now and keep it nearby your to-do list. For instance, you know that a presentation is due next week, but it isn't high priority today, like the other tasks you need to complete. Write down that this presentation should not be a part of your day (just for today) and keep the to—don't list as a reminder to stop yourself from working on that project—at least until the high-priority tasks have been completed. There will be a time when working on this project is a mandatory task.

Say no to your bad work habits. Bad habits are to blame for sabotaging time, no matter what the vice is. Do you check e-mail so often that it distracts you from your workload? Do you reach for your phone every time you hear it buzz? Do you check your fantasy football team every hour to make sure none of your players have reported an injury that will prevent him from playing? Well, it's time to put those behaviors to an end—if you're aiming to be more productive, that is. Even if these distractions only appear momentarily, they're still absorbing precious time in your workday that could be used to complete tasks.

Source: Mike Shultz is the director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company.

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