Every single one of us—professionals, teachers, students, administrators, executives, assistants—faces the need to get more done in less time. The world’s moving at a faster pace, and everything is becoming increasingly hectic. It oftentimes feels like time slips away from us and doesn’t offer any reward in turn. We check our phones, we check our emails, we attend meetings, and we’re constantly being pulled in fifty directions. Then we wonder what we’ve accomplished.
Since everyone and everything tends to demand our time at all hours of the day, there’s only one way to be more productive: We need to make sure we have end goals in mind, start with the finish foremost in our thoughts, and that every single action we take drives us further towards accomplishing those results. A lot of motivational speakers will tell you about the power of the word “Yes.” What’s equally important to realize—or maybe even more so—is the power of the word “No.” Time is our most precious commodity, which makes it important for us to prioritize everything we do.
We’re constantly driven to do tasks that don’t get us any closer to our end goals. If we have fifty things on our plate but only one of them brings us closer to accomplishing a positive, lasting result, then realize – we’ve essentially wasted a lot of time and energy running on a treadmill.
Successful people often prioritize hard tasks first. They create a roadmap to their desired outcome, and break that roadmap down into platforms, processes, and action Steps that bring them closer to their goal. Think about the concept of “cutting the box in half.” If your overall goal is, for example, to raise test scores by 20% in one year, or to make a million dollars more in a particular quarter, it seems like a daunting process until the process is broken down by months, weeks, and then days. Suddenly, your goals seem a little more attainable.
If you make savvy, and strategic decisions, taking the simple action steps that allow you to connect effort directly towards powering desired outcomes (e.g. ensuring the tasks you’re performing daily actually work towards your goals, rather than amount to busywork or distractions)—then you should discover that it’s suddenly feasible to get to the end of very large tasks. At the end of the day, the trick is to break down necessary actions into task lists, prioritize them, and say “No” whenever necessary. Ask yourself if a certain opportunity helps you achieve the outcome that you’re looking for. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to turn it down.
It’s true that “Yes” can be a powerful word that opens you to new skills, new talents, and new connections. But “No” is vital because it helps you decide when and how you should build your schedule, and which tasks should enjoy a place within in. You need to focus on the tasks that deliver the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time—not necessarily those that appear to be the most urgent. See the forest, not the trees, and you’ll be better equipped to successfully navigate your way through the wilderness.