How to Achieve More by Doing Less and Saying 'No'

20/12/2014 8:00 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
Titan Company employees interact during a break at their corporate office in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Indian women still face some of the world's worst inequality in access to health care, education and work, despite years of rapid economic growth, according to the annual Gender Gap Index by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum released Tuesday. India ranked an impressive 15th for female political participation, but it was among the bottom 20 in terms of income, literacy, work force participation and infant survival. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

"Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place." - Lao Tzu

Sounds like a bad joke, right?

Logic says if you don't do more, you achieve less.

And God forbid if you say no to after office drinks with your boss. All that would achieve is a promotion. For your colleague!

Although, saying 'no' did turn out well for Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie One Fine Day when she opted out of a business meeting to take her son to a soccer game. She got to keep the client.

Albeit, we are not in the movies.

This is real life, where...

Let me guess...

You are an achiever. You try to do it all.

You try to say 'yes' to every new experience or opportunity that comes your way because isn't that the only way to a highly productive and successful life?

Does your typical day look a bit like this?

You jump out of bed, check your emails and pack off the kids to school. Then rush to office to attend back-to-back meetings while working on the marketing presentation (boss needs it by end of day). You meet that out-of-town cousin for a hurried lunch (You couldn't say no to her!). The movie premiere is tonight and you also need to keep that appointment with your hair stylist.

You are doing it all, but...

Are you actually doing what you want to do?

Why are you always so exhausted?

Why is your to-do list overflowing with undone tasks or half-done tasks?

Do you have a nagging feeling that despite rushing around all day, you do not have much to show for?

Are you really getting closer to your goals in life?

Contrary to popular belief, busyness does not equate to getting more done.

Einstein had it all worked out: "We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention".

When you have less on your plate, you can improve on the quality of your tasks.

When you can learn to say 'no' to the irrelevant in your life, you can learn what and who are important in it.

Billionaire Warren Buffet believes that in order to be productive "you've to keep control of your time, and you can't unless you say no."

It is not easy though.

In a world where your productivity is judged by the hours you keep in office, it takes courage to say no to back-to-back meetings in order to get home in time for dinner.

I know, you will have to fight the boss tooth and nail for this.

So what's your payoff going to be?

Here's what you achieve when you do less:

More ability to focus, to work in the moment. When you do a lot, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly being interrupted and distracted. Doing less clears away distractions, getting you to focus better.

More peace, less stress. Doing less leaves more space in your schedule, allowing you to work at a more steady and 'human' pace.

More good quality work. Everyone appreciates work well done. You get customer delight and faster promotions. If you do too much, your work is spread thinner compromising on the quality.

More time for loved ones and yourself. A great benefit. If you do less of the non-essential, you save time for something important like your family. You could also improve your baton turning skills.

Bet you are thinking...

It is all very well to say 'do less' but how do I actually start?

Start here...

Identify the important stuff. It could be meeting your monthly sales target, gaining financial independence, or it could be spending more time with your lover on a sailing boat off the coast of Greece. Once you figure out what tasks make the most impact in your life, your career, and your ability to help others, just work on those things. Give them time. Savour them.

Limit you time for everything else. Set limits and force yourself to make choices between the important stuff and the non-essential. Put a limit on social media distractions, a limit on the number of hours you work, a limit on the items in your daily to-do list, a limit on meetings or parties, a limit on requests you say yes to.

How do you say no, then?

Try these three simple ways:

• I wish I could but my workload is very tight and I need to finish some other important stuff first.

• I would love to, but (reason).

• I may not be the best person for this. Could you try someone else?

It only gets easier and simpler with practice.

What are you going to say 'no' to today? Do tell!

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