Tip 6: Be Willing to Say No

by Annie

in Fall Into Productivity

Image of campfire against dark background with text overlay reading "#6 - be willing to say no."

This is a post in Pajama Productivity’s first (hopefully) annual “Fall Into Productivity” month. (Clever wordplay, right? The llamas came up with that.) All month long in October 2016, we’ll be publishing lovely autumnal graphics with a fresh productivity tip each and every day. You can catch all the fall fun right here on the PJP blog, on our PJP Facebook page, or on Twitter @pjproductivity – use the #FallIntoProductivity hashtag to find all posts.

Day 6 reminds us that, despite the fact that none of us are as time-poor as we like to pretend we are, we will have to say ‘no’ at some point — assuming, of course, that we want to complete some creative project.

I’ve personally struggled with this one, and I suspect that’s because I’m what Barbara Sher calls a “scanner” – someone who by nature has a number of deep interests, rather than one all-pervasive passion. I want to do a lot of things, and I want to do them all now.

Nothing wrong with that, per se — except that if I gave each of my interests even an hour a week, I’d be cutting myself out of almost an entire day’s worth of effort.**

If this is you, too, I would suggest Sher’s advice: Instead of saying an outright “no,” say “no, not yet.” You may even want to schedule your interests — “I’ll take care of this project now, and this project in November, and this other one should probably wait until next March….”

Say “no” to things that suck your time and energy without feeding one of your own needs.

For instance, taking care of your children feeds your need as a parent (and keeps you out of jail, I guess, but if that’s the only thing making you fulfill your parental obligations, maybe you shouldn’t have reproduced? Just a thought).

And taking a shower or bath every day fulfills your need not to offend and drive off all the other people in your life.

But serving on your fifth committee this year alone at your kid’s school? Or agreeing to coordinate the neighborhood cookout – again? Organizing your garage right this second?

Or playing a game on Facebook?

Bingewatching a TV series you’ve already seen?

Diving down the YouTube rabbit hole?

You’re going to have to say “no” to some things. Figure out now which things can slide.

**Don’t believe me? Here’s my current reading list — note this doesn’t include books I want to read, only books I am currently reading:

  1. The Age of American Unreason
  2. Productivity for Creative People
  3. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
  4. Non-Obvious
  5. The True History of the American Revolution
  6. Dictatorship vs. Democracy
  7. The Evolution of an Empire
  8. Common Sense
  9. The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  10. Modern French Philosophy
  11. The History of the Pelopennesian War
  12. At the Existentialist Cafe
  13. Paris Under the Occupation
  14. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
  15. Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind
  16. Fifty Key Postmodern Thinkers
  17. The Dialectic of Sex
  18. Arguments
  19. Feminism is for Everybody
  20. The Machinery of Life
  21. The Psychology of Revolution

What can I say? I’m a freak.

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