Don’t feel ashamed to say “no”

Not all tasks need handling. How can we select those that can be ignored? The deciding criterion: tasks we take on today should improve our lives tomorrow. The new guide to effective time management according to the theory of Rory Vaden.

Second article in the series

Here’s a scene to ponder: your boss calls you into the office and gives you an important task, adding that out of the whole team, you’ve been chosen. Then your boss asks for the task to be completed in 24 hours, tapping your shoulder with that look of “I’ve got confidence in you.” Back in your office, countless previously prioritized tasks are waiting. Can you say “no”?

Let’s admit it: most of us can’t. Amix of emotions throws up a barrier between us and our ability to refuse that task: respect for authority, discomfort in the situation, a wish to prove our ability, thoughts about whether it will negatively impact our ambition for promotion, and more.

But this isn’t how time multipliers function. These people know how to refuse, if and when the task is not suited to them.

In the previous article we saw how two models of time management developed during the second half of the 20th century just aren’t up to speed. In other words, they don’t provide us with the ability to cope with the myriad tasks our current lives need to address.

Rory Vaden takes these early models a huge step forward by clarifying that in our current times, there’s no room anymore for the term “time management.” The new terminology is “self-management”, which takes into account the emotional involvement that leads us into choosing how to manage our time.

From the 1980s on, we were encouraged to adopt the model of prioritizing, which taught us to rank tasks based on their importance. Vaden’s model, by contrast, presents 4 variables to guide our use of time. The first variable is elimination. In that regard, the first question to ask ourselves is: can I forego the specific task?

The question we’re actually asking here is not one of what to DO, but one of what NOT TO DO! Or, simply put: can I reject this task? Is there any value in investing the effort needed to carry it out?

And that’s where permission to ignore it can come from!

But before you go dashing of, thrilled at the idea of slashing red lines through your to-do list, it’s important that you ask a preliminary question which will help you make your decision. This is the question that will accompany you throughout your application of Vaden’s self-management model.

Here it is:

What should I be doing today to improve my life tomorrow?

When relating to the variable of elimination we need to understand that the more we say “no” today, the more time we free up tomorrow. We should be trying to take decisions that help us build a better future while rejecting decisions that will either make no difference, or may even be detrimental, to our planned future.

It’s a perceptual change. Most of us end up feeling guilty each time we face a task. Most of us feel constantly obligated to respond positively, and the more tasks we allow to accrue in our lives, the more our lives wind up becoming one failed attempt after another to refuse or reject a task. Eventually we become like the proverbial hamster running on a spin wheel or the juggler with so many balls in the air that they can’t be caught and scatter on the ground.

As Rory Vaden worked at structuring his model, he studied people he identified as time multipliers. Concerning the component of elimination, he noted how time multipliers focused his thoughts by saying: ”You need to understand that when you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you’re always saying ‘no’ to countless other things.”

“And that,” Vaden emphasized, “changed my life!”

Let’s hope it casts a valuable spotlight on yours too.

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