By Andy Bailey
Life as a business owner—not to mention parent and spouse—is chaotic. By day you’re leading client meetings and balancing the books, by night you’re attending networking events, cheering on your kids at their dance recitals and soccer games and spending monthly date night with your significant other.
How can one do it all? You must learn when to say “no.”
The secret to learning how and when to say no is to focus more on the important and less on the urgent. Think about the days when you have an event right after work, and magically you complete everything by 4:30. Or you have a three-day weekend and wondrously the five-day workload is condensed into four.
It’s not magic or wonder, it’s focus. When we want to make time for what matters to us, we zone in on our important tasks and complete them quickly.
When you’re trying to leave the office an hour early for your flight to Cancun, you don’t let distractions like frantic co-workers or telemarketers get in the way. Instead you prioritize what needs to get done and cast aside everything else that can wait. Apply that judgment to your day-to-day routines to maximize efficiency.
Here are a few things to do (or not do) each day.
1. Limit distractions—It takes the average person 12 minutes to refocus after a distraction. That’s 12 minutes after every phone call, email ping and door nock. Power down your phone, close your email and hang a sign on your door that reads, Do not disturb. Genius at work.
2. Forget about the “pebbles” and identify what’s truly important—In Orna W. Drawas’ book, “Perform Like A Rock Star,” she presents the analogy of your own personal pickle jar that you fill with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. The rocks are those big important tasks that actually make a difference but are typically the most difficult to accomplish. Oftentimes we spend our day filling our jars with sand and pebble tasks that pack our time, and our jar, with insubstantial activities—leaving no room for rocks. Recognize your rocks and fill your jar with those first.
3. Schedule your day everyday—Block off time on your calendar to complete those big tasks that significantly influence you and your company’s forward movement. Even after a long day at the office, take one additional step before heading out—jot down tomorrow’s to-do list. Logging your most important tasks ahead of time gives you a better idea of your priorities so you know what to say no to tomorrow.
It’s about quality. Sure you may be able to do it all, but you can’t do it all well, all the time. You have to prioritize and create a work/life balance. When you do say yes, you want it to mean you’ll be able to dedicate time, presence and focus to your commitment.
Work is more fulfilling when you do it well. Make your time count and work smarter instead of harder.
Andy Bailey built and sold a multimillion-dollar business and is now lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra and president of Nashville’s EO chapter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.