We’re all asked to do things we don’t want to do, go places we don’t want to go, and take part in projects we don’t have any interest in on a regular (read: daily) basis. If we cave and say “Yes” to these so-called opportunities, we end up taking time away from the work we’re doing that we enjoy, and from the family and friends who are waiting for us to get our heads out of our laptops and pay attention to them.
Here are 10 simple, painless ways to make space for what really matters in your life.
Provide an alternative. Say “No, but _____ could help you out” and refer away. Point people to a website, an article, a colleague, a friend, a resource, or a kitten video whenever necessary.
Have a weekend and/or unplugged e-mail auto-responder. This creates a gentle boundary and lets peeps know they won’t be hearing from you within 7 seconds. Or even 7 minutes!
Respond to methods of communication you don’t prefer with those you DO. You’re teaching people how to treat you, and you’re also teaching people how to communicate with you.
Model the behavior you’d like to see others emulate. Hire an inbox mistress. Have unplugged days. Take longer than an hour to get back to people because you’re off living life. Be the change.
Set expectations. As in, “X will be done by [date] and [time].” This eliminates the other person’s need to check in, to “see how things are going,” or to bother you until the scheduled date and time. It also manages expectations and makes people feel that you’re taking care of them. (Because you are.)
Say “No, thanks.” No further explanation required.
Delete it. If an e-mail has obviously been copied, pasted, and sent to a mass audience to make an individual request for your time or to ask a favor, delete it. No response necessary. I’ve been asked to speak at seminars that start “Dear Sir or Madam…” — there’s no need to be offended or outraged — or even to respond. Moving on…
Charge more for the work you don’t enjoy doing. It’s perfectly fine to charge more for making your least favorite product, even though your hard costs for your least and most favorite products are the same. It’s easy as breathing.
Charge more for urgency. Oh, you need this to be done in 2 hours? That’ll be 50% more than if you wait until next Tuesday.
Don’t take work that gives you a bad feeling. Even if it’s “good money.” Even if it’s “easy.” Settling teaches people that you’ll…settle.
And remember: “No” is a complete sentence.
Hope this helps you make more room for the important stuff in your life, and for living a good story offline.