We are all bombarded by requests for our time. During this time of continual change, it often takes more time than it used to in order to accomplish even the “little” things. When our colleagues, partners, coalitions, family members and friends ask us for something, we often have a sense of urgency in responding either “yes” or “no.” What if we decided to wait – to pause – before responding with an answer? What if we respond with “I need to evaluate whether I have the capacity to do this” rather than an immediate “yes or no”? What if we take a look at our “ideal week” and our existing commitments before we respond to see if this request aligns with them?
When we pause, we give ourselves space to move “away from the overwhelm” and make the best decision possible for ourselves and others. Depending upon our mood or perspective at the time of the request, if respond quickly, we may say “yes” way too often and then find ourselves completely overwhelmed to accomplish all of our “yes’s” OR we may turn down an opportunity that might be a great one but someone asked us at a moment or season that we are too busy and overwhelmed to really evaluate it properly. Here are 3 things I encourage you to do when you take the time (a few hours, days or a week) to “pause” before responding “yes” or “no”.
- Evaluate whether the request fits into your current priorities and commitments. Look at your ideal week and your quarterly goals. If this request aligns with what you are already focused on and may even help you achieve your top priorities as well, then this might be a really great option. However, if this request is outside your current priorities, even if it’s a good thing, or it’s a person you really respect, I highly recommend turning it down. We only have a limited amount of time in our day and week and every “yes” is an automatic “no” to something else. If we keep saying “yes” to things that distract us from our priorities and commitments, then we will have no capacity to focus on our priorities and commitments.
- Review what you are already saying “yes” to in your life. I don’t know about you, but some days I just “feel” like I have a lot more time and other days that I “feel” like I am completely overwhelmed. When you take the time to pause, you can review what you have already said “yes’ to over the next few months. You may want to create a timeline or table, review your calendar and/or write those important items on a large whiteboard or journal. Evaluate your existing commitments and priorities closely before making the next decision and review the resource again when you receive additional requests. If you continue to make decisions without examining the other “yes’s,” you are likely to underestimate the time you have already allocated to other things. I encourage you to try doing this kind of exercise at least once per quarter even if no one has asked you for anything at the moment.
- Examine why you would say “yes” to this request or this person. Are you saying yes because you think you owe someone something or perhaps to please someone? Do you really want to say “yes” or do you think you “should” say yes? While there are times it is important to support our partners and their work, be very cautious with your “yes” and remember to reflect on #1 and #2 first! If you are only saying “yes” out of obligation and you don’t really want to do it, then be honest. If you know it does not fit well within your current priorities or schedule but you hate letting down a friend, then I encourage you to be courageous. Courageously and kindly say “no” or “not right now.” I really like Michael Hyatt’s “no” response, “In order for me to fulfill my existing commitments, I cannot…..” Also, consider other people who may be a good fit for the request and connect them together. You may be able to provide an opportunity to someone else!
How are you going to “pause” this week?
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