Are you that busy person? The one that everyone comes to because they know you’ll help them, to get stuff done, even though you have your own to-do list that is the length of your arm?!
There’s a quote “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it” but why is that? Is it because the busier you are the better you are at managing your time or is it because you don’t know how to say ‘No’?
Managing your time
I like to be busy, at work and at home. With no to-do list nothing gets done as I feel no urgency for anything to be done and time ticks on. Tasks tend to get put off until the very last minute when a sense of panic arises! I don’t like to feel stressed or miss a deadline so tend to think about and plan ahead with my time. Besides, idle Amazon surfing hands get me and my bank balance in trouble!
To keep track of this busy lifestyle I use Audacity to schedule my tasks and manage my week, as well as my day. I use the folders to separate current priorities e.g. ‘Summer Holidays’, ‘Work’, ‘Birthdays’ and ‘Personal Admin’. Within these folders I have my list of priorities and I can schedule my tasks and subtasks with deadlines and work on dates. Managing my time like this enables me to keep in control of everything – from important deadlines at work, to holiday childcare arrangements, to setting aside 30 minutes to read the current novel I’m engrossed in (a re-read of ‘Tanamera’ by Noel Barber).
Why I like to help, even when I am busy
But even if I am busy, I will always endeavour to help someone, be it at work or at home. I am of the belief that “happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness”. Being able to lend a hand brings me a great sense of accomplishment and purpose and with it a feeling of happiness. If I can make someone’s day, make life a little bit easier for them, then I will always try to re-prioritise.
So, if I choose to be, I can be flexible with my time. I don’t have to feel overwhelmed if there is a last-minute change to my plans. I can look at my time buckets for the day or my ‘Next 7 days’ list and see what I can adjust. If the time spent helping someone is without any detriment to my main focus or purpose for that week then I am always willing to help.
I’ve had to learn to say ‘No’ along the way
But here is a point I’d like to make, I can choose to be flexible with my time. I can choose to say ‘Yes’ and I can choose to say ‘No’. I couldn’t always do this, but I can now as I’ve learnt that “’NO’ is a shield to protect the ‘YES’ that really matter”.
If you can’t say ‘No’ and find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed by the tasks you’ve said ‘Yes’ to then it’s time to take a step back. You need to take ownership of the situation before you become totally useless – the exact opposite of what you are trying to be!
It starts with understanding why you can’t say ‘No’ and there are various articles that contemplate this:
- Matt Sandrini with his ‘laser-focused NO-ninja’ that has overcome a fear of rejection and fear of failure
- Jessica Thiefels who has learnt to build a life that she loves by letting go of worrying about appearing selfish or hurting someone’s feelings
- Jane Collingwood believes that by gaining the confidence to say ‘No’ and being true to yourself you can earn respect from yourself and from those around you.
Once you’ve understood what is preventing you from saying ‘No’ you can then spend time thinking about what you want and what changes you want to make. This will identify where you truly want to spend your time. Saying ‘No’ to something which then doesn’t fit this new focus becomes much easier. (If you still have any qualms about saying ‘No’, then the next book on my ‘To Read’ list, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson, may help you to overcome them!)
Be true to yourself
This honesty and truthfulness with yourself burns much less energy and allows you to direct your time on the things that really matter to you. Having the courage of your convictions with this change of mindset can alleviate the stress or worry that comes with a fear of upsetting someone or concern over what other people think.
Imagine this scenario… you’re tired, you’ve had a long day, you’ve still got chores to do at home and you still haven’t done the exercise you’d promised yourself you’d do yesterday. A colleague arrives at your desk, just as you’ve logged off, with an urgent request for data that is needed for a meeting tomorrow morning… what do you do?
A. Smile, say ‘Yes…’ and switch back on your computer while inside you’re thinking:
- I really don’t want to do this but if I don’t they won’t think I’m a team player
- All I really want to do is go home and go for my run as I know I will feel much better after it and I didn’t go yesterday so I’m annoyed about that
- This data is tricky, it’s not a quick job, so I’ll be stuck here for a while
- Because I’ll end up leaving later the traffic will build up so my journey home will take much longer than usual and I’ll have less time at home and I won’t get to do my run
- I also need to bake a cake for the party and cook my dinner
- But if I don’t do this now I’ll have let them down and they’ll think less of me so I’d best get on with it
…. and the words ‘No trouble, how can I help?’ rush forth from your mouth while your soul wilts inside…
Or B. Smile, say ‘Let me check…’ while you:
- Refer to Audacity and see that you still need to go on your run that you didn’t do yesterday and this is your number one priority for the evening
- Know that if you don’t leave work now you will shorten the time needed for the run
- See that your second priority is the cake that needs baking for your daughter’s party which needs to be done that evening as you’re scheduled to decorate it tomorrow after work
- Realise the data is tricky and actually you’re too tired to give it the attention it needs right now, you know you’re a morning person and you can work more accurately and efficiently after a run and a good sleep
- Understand that you like to be useful and support colleagues
- Take a quick glance at the ‘Next 7 day’ list and see that tomorrow mornings household chores can easily be delayed by a day so you hit the ‘+1’ button and you can now come into the office a bit earlier and crunch the data first thing in time for the meeting
… and the words ‘No, sorry, I’m leaving now, I can do it first thing tomorrow morning’ are uttered like petals in the breeze and you skip out of the office happy in the knowledge that you’ve been true to yourself and your higher purpose.
Which response are you, A or B? If your typical response is similar to A and you struggle to have the confidence to say ‘No’ and feel stretched and sapped of energy because of it, then perhaps you need to take some time out and refocus your energies.
Give yourself half an hour a day to reflect on your to-do list, maybe even trial Audacity and see how easy it can be to list all your tasks and keep in control of it all. See where you can say ‘Yes’ and where you can say ‘No’. By keeping the focus on your higher purpose it allows you to spend your time on what you value most.
So maybe it shouldn’t be ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’ but rather “if you want something done, ask a busy, focused and purposeful person to do it”!
If you’d like to trial Audacity you can find it here at the app store.