Learn to say “No” (ii)

Last week’s article was about the power of “No.” A simple word but with great power to help you take control of your schedule. Hopefully by now, you have had some practice with saying “No.” The goal is to eventually reach a level where you learn to say “yes” to opportunities and “no” to distractions.

With practice, it’s easy to know when to politely redirect your colleague’s offer for last minute help on a project they had two months to work on. Outside the workplace, however, it can become more difficult to decide which tasks to give up. Let’s examine the following list:

  • Take minutes of the meeting of market women’s association.
  • Service the generator at the orphanage
  • Do the book keeping for the Youth association
  • Read to five year olds at the library
  • Deliver the opening speech at your nephew’s speech and prize giving day

All of these tasks are important and they have to get done. Let us assume for a second that you have agreed to do all those tasks. As a law abiding member of the society, you understand it is your civic duty to volunteer where you can so you agree to help at one association, and another and another. Very soon, your weekends are spent going from one cause to another. A quick caveat: If this is what you want and it makes you happy, please carry on what you are doing. The world is a better place with people like you. If, however, at some point you find yourself questioning if it’s worth it, then it might be time to cut back on your voluntary engagements.

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Say No to distractions

One way to go about choosing which tasks to give up is to use a framework to measure how good you are at one task and how much enjoyment you derive doing it on a scale of 1 to 5. For example:

Task Am I good at this? Do I enjoy doing it?
Taking minutes of meeting 5 2
Servicing the generator 3 1
Book keeping for youth association 3 4
Read to five year olds at the library 5 5
Deliver opening speech 3 2

From the above, you can infer:

  1. You should probably ask the association to nominate a new secretary. You might be good at it but the enjoyment you derived from the task is quite marginal. Someone else might be just as good and enjoy it more.
  2. You need to stop servicing the generator. You are not very good at it and you derive no joy from it. Have you considered asking Murtala to do it? His house is closer and he is a technical guru.
  3. You should keep doing the book keeping and you definitely need to continue reading to the children.
  4. The opening speech is a tricky one. You may not enjoy it but you might not want to disappoint your nephew.

What do you think? If you feel you need to take a step back and do less volunteering so you can focus on the causes you enjoy the most, try using the above framework. I hope you find it helpful. I know I did.

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