• Read How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    Leadership

    How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    The last few weeks I’ve taught a number of courses on time and priority management for busy professionals.  One topic that often comes up is the matter of saying no at the office.  I often wonder if it’s because I’m based in the South, where we place a special emphasis on “being nice” and “sugar coating” things.  And yet it comes up over and over again no matter what part of the US or world I’m working in.  Questions like: How do I say no to a colleague who needs help, especially one that I like?  Or what about a stakeholder who always thinks their deliverable is the most important and is constantly trying to add extra tasks to my already full plate? Our mindset around saying no is Key I often hear concerns about guilt and what will other people think about me if I don’t help them.  There are a lot of folks that inadvertently fall into the approval seeking trap.  Many of us never develop the strong boundaries in childhood that we need to get us through life, and it rears its ugly head as we get older.  And it really is a trap.  When you’re stuck in it, you often experience what I call the “Plight of the Martyr,” where you’re constantly solving problems that are urgent for others but ultimately not important to you.  And your key priorities fall to the wayside as a result.  Think about that continuous improvement project that you’re constantly putting on the back burner.  Or perhaps you’re wanting to get back in shape and find yourself sitting at your desk toiling away on an urgent deliverable for someone else and decide to skip that yoga class yet again.  What’s interesting is that for some people (myself now included) saying no is not super difficult.  When I ask folks who have an easier time why that is the case, they often explain that they value their time.  They realize their deliverables and priorities are just as important as others.  They also recognize that taking the monkey constantly off another person’s back isn’t a great way for them to learn.  That is itself is an interesting reframe, because we often believe we are helping but in many instances, we could be hindering the growth and development of the person asking the favor. Ultimately it comes down to judgement.  We do live in a society where reciprocity is valued, and it might make sense to say yes to a request when you recognize you might need a favor down the line.  However, if you decide that saying no is the right option, then consider the following technique as a viable option that could save you heaps of valuable time. Use the AIM Framework to say no A – Acknowledge the request.  “I can really tell you’re in a bind and I know how important this report is to you and your team.”  When we acknowledge we are in effect repeating back that we’ve […]

    October 6, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read What a jar of rocks and sand can tell you about your life

    Productivity

    What a jar of rocks and sand can tell you about your life

    The other day I was teaching a leadership course, and I shared the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6m9WnNdpSw Rocks and Sand In it, it depicts Charlie Chaplin attempting to fill a container first with sand, and then cram a number of large rocks in at the top.  The rocks spill over as obviously there’s not enough room.  And then he tries again.  He puts the big rocks in first, and then pours the sand in.  This time, everything fits, as the sand fills up the empty cracks around the rocks. What are the big rocks in your life? There’s an obvious metaphor to our day to day lives in this short and insightful little rocks and sand video.  The rocks represent the big things in our lives.  Things like important projects, health and wellness, our career development, our family.  And it’s important to realize that the big rocks also change over time.  The sand are the small bits like emails, phone calls, administrative tasks and recurring minor deliverables. The question I asked the group, was “Where do you tend to focus first – the rocks or the sand?  I was hoping they’d be honest and they were.  Just about every of the 28 participants owned up to wanting to focus on the sand first, and push off the big rocks in their life. Why do we focus on the sand first? We do this for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the bigger things are often the more nebulous ones.  So often we don’t even know where to start.  When we don’t know where to start, it makes it easier to avoid these things.  Secondly, the sand is easier to tackle.  These are often quick emails, phone calls, reports that need to be run.  We know what to do, and so it’s just easier to drive right in.  The third reason is rooted is physiology.  We often get a small dopamine hit from crossing something off our to do list.  So we pick the path of least resistance and higher reward, at least in the short term. Tips for getting the big rocks It’s no surprise that the big things often allude us in life.  We tell folks that we’re just too busy, and never seem to be able to find enough time to do all the things we want to do.  And that makes perfect sense when the sand comes first.  A few tips I often share with clients on this front, that help to minimize the sand and put the rocks first are: Turn off the notification on your phone and laptop that dings or pops up to let you know you have more email. The notifications will hijack your attention from the important rock you’re focused on.  And good luck getting refocused. Spend time at the end of the day or at the beginning of the day, getting clear on the 2-3 big rocks you want to make a dent in. It only takes a few minutes to remind yourself […]

    February 21, 2022

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    3.4 min read

  • Read Never-ending inbox? How to manage email…so it stops managing you

    Productivity

    Never-ending inbox? How to manage email…so it stops managing you

    It’s amazing how some things are just a universal truth, no matter if I’m working with an executive coaching client, a leadership coaching client or a career coaching client – everyone is inundated with email.  The irony is that very little of the email we get is very important.  And yet, many of us treat it as if it has upmost importance. Why do we let email manage us? Some of the answer is biological.  We get a little dopamine hit from responding to it.  “Look, see!  Another thing off my to do list!” You wouldn’t be the first human to confuse activity with output.  We all fall into this trap from time to time. Sometimes our system settings are set up to conspire against us.  We forget to deactivate notifications, and that little ping and flash of the next message in our inbox is just too alluring to resist.  Remember, just because a notification is built into your computer system, doesn’t mean you have to use it.  These things are a form of digital crack that have been designed intentionally to hook us, don’t be fooled! How to manage email – Turn off notifications! When I teach effective planning, one of the first things I tell people to do is turn those darn things off.  The constant distraction has a huge impact on our ability to focus.  And according to mindfulness research, it can take 5-10 minutes to refocus on what you were doing before, after your attention gets hijacked.  That’s precious time that you don’t need stolen as you constantly are attempting to regroup after you’ve taken your focus off that important project or deliverable. How to manage email – Set boundaries! Easier said than done, right?  But this is critical to managing your inbox and managing expectations with your stakeholders.  Get into the habit of checking email once or twice a day and COMMUNICATE this to your key stakeholders.  If there is a real emergency – real meaning RARE – ask them to call, text or IM you. It’s important to remember that most of the email you get is neither important to you and your priorities, it’s most likely important to someone else’s.  If you find that most of your day is caught up responding to email, chances are you’re unconsciously stealing time away from the things that really matter to you.  Remember this fantastic phrase that I have creatively edited of Stephen Covey – “If you know what is important to you, when you say no, you’re saying yes to something bigger!”   Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!  

    January 26, 2022

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    2.5 min read