Mama raised me to be helpful and obliging. As a kid that served me well. The pat on the head and warm praise of the words, “good boy” was its own reward.
However in adult relationships this is known as being a doormat. In business, it’s naivety and the road to failure and misery.
Learning to say no is a liberating experience. More than that it’s a vital time management practice the helps you master the art of focus.
Having A Not-To-Do List
Much of the various systems for productivity focus on new and ever more efficient ways to handle tasks and to-do lists.
To-do lists are indeed valuable time management tools (I personally use and recommend GTD). However before prioritizing you need to start with elimination. Decide on the things that you will not do, projects you will not take on and the type of people you won’t work with.
Having the same few items lingering at the bottom of your list forever is demoralizing and stressful.
However, guilt or a false sense of responsibility can cause us to fool ourselves into believing we’ll one day get around to it.
Have an honest think – what would be the worst case scenario if I eliminate this task or project from my list? If there is no or little real consequence, chances are it can be safely deleted.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
– Peter F. Drucker
It may well be that it is an important but perhaps not urgent task. These can often be sources of procrastination.
One of the best ways to handle these is to delegate or outsource these if possible. Yes, it may not be done as well as you would do it, but a good rule of thumb is 80% as good by someone else is better than 100% done by me.
The Customer Is NOT Always Right
You need to be vigilant with time thieves. In fact, given the choice I’d much prefer to be robbed by a garden variety thief than a time thief. For one I can prosecute the ordinary thief, secondly, money is a renewable resource – time is not.
One of the most common types of time thieves are problem customers. In a previous article we’ve discussed why you should fire problem customers.
Let’s correct an old adage – the customer is NOT always right. Being a good doormat and putting on a plastic smile despite the unreasonableness and rudeness of a small population of customers is not my cup of tea.
These types of customers are a very small percentage of the population but they can rob you of all the joy of running your own business, especially if you subscribe to the philosophy that “the customer is always right”.
This old saying while cute, was likely devised by someone with an inferiority complex and has since been parroted by “experts” of some description or another ad nauseum.
My response to this type of time thief is usually to refund their money, politely show them the door and direct them towards one of my competitors.
Like many business owners, the kind of business I’m interested in is about lifestyle design. Our businesses are vehicles to enable us to live an extraordinary life. Selfish? Too transparent? I don’t think so – just honest and open.
Business should be and has always been about an exchange of value.
So of course we do take exceptional care of the customer and we understand to earn a million dollars we have to deliver at least a million dollars or more in value. Everyone loves a bargain so if we deliver more value than we charge for, we’ll always be in demand.
Zig said it well:
You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
It turns out that choosing what you won’t do is just as, or even more, important than managing the things that you will do.
Be ok with the things on your not-to-do list. It will relieve stress, help you focus and increase the quality of your output.