Since the start of the year we’ve been looking at easy ways we can increase productivity. So far we’ve seen how to give productivity a boost through optimising our time, practising better mindfulness or managing businesses more effectively.
What we’ve also seen is, in embracing these different methods, it becomes much easier to enjoy work, have engaged employees and create a positive culture. This helps create an extremely positive workforce, bursting with a ‘can do’ approach and eager to solve problems.
This is exactly the kind of workforce we want to have and we want you to have. But we don’t want to stop there, we want a workforce always striving to improve performance and finding ways to be more productive. One of the dangers of having a dream team of problem solvers is the tendency for everyone to say yes; there’s no problem that can’t be solved and nothing that can’t be achieved.
These are fantastic traits to have, however there are times when being able to say no will lead to improved productivity. Steve Jobs said it best when he said: “Focus is about saying no.” As well as helping you keep focus, saying no also helps you make the best use of time. That’s why it’s one of the secrets to boosting productivity even when you’ve already optimised your time.
To turn saying no into a positive we need to understand when to say no, how to say no and why to say no.
When to say no. Knowing when to say no is hard, especially if you’re a people pleaser who always wants to help. To start, make sure you have priorities of what you need to achieve on a daily and weekly basis. If you do this then you’ll know how much flexibility there is in your schedule and if it’s going to be possible for you to do more. It can be exciting to jump into new opportunities or help with new problems but not if it’s to the detriment of what you’ve already set out to do. These are the times when you need to say no.
How to say no. In saying no to something, make sure the person who is asking you to do it understands why you can’t. This could be because you have already made commitments to other colleagues, it could be because someone else is much better placed to help or it could be because the deadline is unrealistic. Whatever the reason, explain why you’re having to say no and, if it’s possible, suggest an alternative. Maybe it’s something you can help with at a later date or it’s something a colleague is able to help with. Being positive, helpful and understanding will show you’re empathetic to the problem even if you can’t solve it immediately.
Why to say no. Be agreeing to do more when you’re already at capacity increases stress, fatigue and the risk of burnout. If you try and work like this for a sustained period of time you’ll feel less engaged and your productivity will fall. Overcommitting will also leave you feeling resentful, frustrated and angry. Furthermore there are times when it’s just not practical. If you have a looming deadline and a colleague from another department wants a blue-sky meeting to bounce ideas around the best course of action is to say you’d love to but it’s not going to be possible right now.
Successful employees, managers and business leaders become successful by saying yes. But, as author and marketing strategist Dorie Clark points out in the Harvard Business Review, “there is strength in learning to say no. It’s the only way to reach the level of focus and productivity that allows you to become great.”