Do you ever feel like there is not enough time in your day, or week, to accomplish everything that you need to? The truth is that there is more than enough time, but you have to control your schedule. Don’t let your schedule be hijacked by others. Learn to say “no” more often!
I began to learn this lesson last year when I read Essentialism by Greg McKeown for the first time.
In his book, author Greg McKeown highlights the importance of saying “no” to opportunities which are not essential so that we can say “yes” to the opportunities that are.
This is something that I’ve struggled with for years. By nature, I am a people pleaser and I try to accommodate the request of others any time I can. But, after reading Essentialism I begin to change the way I look at saying “yes.” I began to realize that sometimes saying “no” was actually better for others than saying “yes.”
How so? I realized that saying “no” to certain opportunities would allow me to more fully engage in opportunities that I said “yes” to. It would allow me to give my all to the things that I take on.
So how do you decide which opportunities say “no” to and which opportunites to say “yes” to?
You have to figure out which opportunities are truly essential, and which only appear to be. At first glance most opportunities look the same, but if you take a closer look you will see that there are 4 distinct types of opportunities we are presented with each and every day.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower first introduced this idea with his decision matrix. It shows the following:
The 4 Levels of Opportunities
- Important and Urgent. Level 1 opportunities require immediate action, and help us move towards our desired outcome. They are both important and urgent. Examples of things that fall into this category are deadlines, crises, and problems.
- Important But Not Urgent. Level 2 opportunities are things that will help us achieve our goals, as well as provide fulfillment for our lives, but that don’t require immediate attention. These tasks, if ignored long enough, will move to level 1. Some examples of these would be our relationships, and health. These opportunities are the most powerful as they allow us to achieve the results that we want in the future through planning and thought-out actions.
- Not Important But Urgent. These tasks are the ones that we get caught up on the most. Because of the fact that they are urgent they tend to appear to be something that we need to take action on. However, a closer look will reveal that they are unimportant to us, and therefor should be avoided. Many times they are just interruptions to our day.
- Not Important and Not Urgent. This type of opportunity is the easiest to spot. It is something that someone else may mention to us, which we are not interested in, and which does not require any action at the current time. This is the easiet opportunity to handle, just ignore all level 4 opportunities. Many emails that you receive fall into this category. They are “junk” and should be deleted immediately.
The goal is to move from saying yes to level 3 and level 4, to focusing on level 2 opportunities.
But, to do so you have to be willing to say “no” to any task that doesn’t fall into level 1 or level 2. You will have to learn how to say “no” to two types of people to achieve this.
The two type of people we need to say no to more often
- Start saying “no” to others. Many times the level 3 and level 4 opportunities that we are presented with are from the outside world. They may be someone else’s level 1 or level 2 opportunities but they aren’t the same for us. Don’t be mean, but start saying “no” to all opportunities from others that are level 3 and level 4.
- Start saying “no” to yourself. We like to think that it is only others that are crowding our schedule and distracting us from achieving the things that we want to achieve. However, at times we are the ones that choose to focus on the wrong activities. It is very easy to make a level 3 opportunity seem like a level 1 or level 2. Start examining all opportunities and telling yourself “no” to the level 3 opportunities that you try to place importance on.
We all have the same amount of time in the week, exactly 168 hours. What you choose to do with those hours will determine the level of success you achieve. Begin focusing on level 2 opportunities and you will feel like you just dramatically increased the amount of time you have each and every week!