When I am invited to do something that doesn’t help me accomplish the goals I’ve laid out for myself, it’s always clear that I should say no. But it’s hard. I feel like I need to explain myself, or give some kind of lame excuse. So, here’s what I’ve realized. When someone asks something of me, I have one obligation: to be honest with my response.
If I need to decline a request, sometimes I feel the obvious awkwardness that I’ve created, and I want to explain myself. Rather than blathering on about my reasons, though, my best approach is simply to be vague. I don’t owe a detailed explanation.
- Decline respectfully.
- Don’t overshare.
- Be vague as you can. Specific as you must.
- Use, “I can’t.”
At lunch the other day, a friend of mine mentioned that he thinks he may be self-sabotaging his plan to delegate work to his employees. He secretly feels like he needs to be that busy doing “important” things or things that actually give him a surge of adrenalin.
First, I appreciate his insight and honesty.
Second, I think recognizing that there is much more going on than just an “I’m the best at this place” type of mentality.
Third, once you recognize it for what it is, you can become more objective about letting go of things, and this is where true freedom begins as a business owner.
I know the term, “agile” is quite en vogue at the moment, but I realized that it’s a great way to define decision making in my life.
Agile, in this context, just means making a decision or delivering something, then seeking feedback, improvements, and iterating on your initial idea.
I have a saying: “I’m making the best decision I can right now with the information I have.” That does a couple of things:
- It allows me to decide something rather than procrastinate.
- It reduces the pressure because I’m not making a decision that lasts forever.
- It gives me the basis for changing my mind later when I have more information.
It is important to realize that decisions do have long-range consequences, so make sure that your decisions align with your ethics and the goals you have for your life. (You do have personal and family goals, right?)
There are a bajillion blogs, articles, tweets, and ebooks telling you the best way to do things, and it’s a great way to attract people to your website. But, let’s face it, most of it is noise.
So, when you start writing helpful things on your website, make sure you give more than stock answers, give your evaluation, your opinion, your color. That’s how you’ll stand out from the crowd.
I’m so old that I actually knew of folks who carried 3×5 index cards in their pocket, and every time they thought of an idea for something, they’d write it down. Then, they’d file those cards, and occasionally review those ideas for anything worthwhile.
I’m a big believer in capturing every idea, but my weapon of choice is Evernote. I use it on my phone and on my MacBook. You can snap photos, scan documents, drag stuff from email, and do audio recordings. And all of it is easy to search, so I don’t have to think hard about where to file it.
The tool isn’t critical, but find some way to capture every idea you have. Trust me, you won’t remember half of them. And most of the time, they’re not great. But it’s worth it to capture that one really, really good idea.
I’ve started listening to podcasts or audiobooks on my morning walk, and for the most part, I’m liking it. It’s a big change for me, because for the last year or more I’ve walked in complete silence.
Actually, that’s not true. I was usually talking to myself.
While I had hoped to be able to think while I walk, I’ve discovered that I actually can’t seem to keep my mind trained on one topic for long enough to come to any conclusions.
I basically can’t think without writing something down. It forces me to focus.
So, I’m testing whether there’s more value for me to have input on my walk or silence. We’ll see.
I’ve had thousands of good intentions, a few of those ideas morphed into some kind of action, and most of them have run their course in due time. However, in a few cases, those good ideas have grown into full-fledged habits.
- For instance, I’ve journaled daily since July 27, 2010.
- I’ve eaten a healthy breakfast of rolled oats almost daily since about 2009.
- I walk each morning. (It’s an old man activity, but my joints are grateful.)
- My wife & I have the exact same bedtime routine with each of our children. That started when Ellie (16) was four or five.
There are a few common reasons those habits stuck:
- I added them either to the beginning or end of my day, which means I do them without having too many other distractions.
- I have made them easy to maintain by keeping whatever is needed directly in my path. So my journal is beside my bed. My walking clothes are easy to snag.
- I’ve kept the expectation low for each, so I don’t feel overwhelmed with the task. For instance, my journaling is not super interesting, but it occasionally is, and that’s ok.
My wife, Jenny, reminded me the other day that she had a professor at college that would say, “Inspect with you expect.” In other words, if you have set an expectation, make sure that you close the loop by having a way to keep an eye on it, report on it, and talk about it, so that it is top of mind. If you don’t check back in, it must not be that important.
Without inspection, your expectation is really just a wish.
You may be a chronic over-committer like me. I learned something that radically altered my over-committing.
The biggest challenges are when someone asks you to do something. You’re agreeable, and doggone likeable, so you want to reply with an immediate, “yes.” But, later you probably wish you hadn’t.
Next time, just create a space to think by using a statement that buys you some time, and allows you to choose your obligations. Just say, “That sounds really interesting. Before I can commit, though, let me check my schedule, and get back with you.”
Now, you’ve got a chance to align your schedule with your priorities before you commit.
I love reading history, and this morning, I was reading a collection of speeches by the eminent American historian, David McCullough. He said that it is easy to forget that individuals made choices and decisions in the present not really knowing how things would turn out. We tend to think of them in the context of the past. It’s too easy to forget that things didn’t have to turn out the way they did.
That impacts my choices for today. My responsibility is to step up to any challenge and recognize that it is all I can control.