“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”John Lydgate (Quote famously adapted by Abraham Lincoln)
One of the most powerful words in the vocabulary of personal productivity is saying “No.” The simple act of knowing when and how to say “No” can save you from committing yourself to doing tasks you should not be doing in the first place.
Some people struggle with this aspect of personal productivity. Naturally, a lot of us want to be helpful. We want to be known as the approachable guy. The one people can come to when they have a problem. The only issue with being this guy is if you are not careful you end up working on other people’s A-tasks at the expense of your A-tasks.
Boundaries are necessary for personal productivity. A basic principle in productivity is identifying the key task you should be doing today and creating time to get it done. By default, this means setting boundaries on how and when you work.
Different environments will require different types of boundaries. Contrary to what you might think, people actually respect your work boundaries once you make them clear. If you make it clear, you are not the kind of person who reads work emails at 1am, people will expect a delayed response when they send you work emails after office hours. It doesn’t make you lazy. It simply means you are a hard worker who puts in a lot of effort during the office hours and expects to get lots of free time for your personal projects once it’s closing time.
Other boundaries you could set include: No responding to emails during your lunch break, no picking up work calls during weekends, working on important tasks between the hours of 10am and noon. The list is endless. The important thing is to recognise the sort of boundaries you need to be effective at your job and work to set them up.