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Few people are good at saying “No”. We generally want to please other people and for them to like us. Unfortunately because there is so much to do and achieve in our busy lives, saying “Yes” to more activities is often a mistake. The reason it is a mistake is that over-commitment leads to stress and a lack of focus. You simply cannot do 30 activities in a week and expect to focus and achieve in all of them. If you try to squeeze too much into your life, the really important things get marginalized or left out altogether.
For example, many people say their kids, their marriage and their faith are vitally important to them. But the truth is that in many cases the kids don’t get quality time, the spouses hardly see each other and prayer is something you do when you desperately need something!
How can we solve this problem?
Tip #1 List Your Real Priorities
It is powerful just to write down your top five or top ten priorities in life. To help me do this I think about being 85 and in my rocking chair looking back on my life. What do I really want to be looking back on? Once you put pen to paper you realize that an awful lot of your time is taken up by activities that are nowhere near you real priorities in life.
Tip #2 Be Disciplined
Be disciplined to say “No” to everything that tries to crowd out your top priorities. These are things that you have complete control over such as wasting a few hours in a pointless activity e.g. watching a trashy movie.
Tip #3 Actually say “No”
Actually say “No” to someone asking you to do something you know is not going to help you achieve your goals or be part of your real priorities. I remember when I was trying to get really good at playing the guitar I would sometimes disappoint my friends on a Friday night when they wanted me to go to the movies with them – I just said “No”. Sometimes when I set aside time to write, a friend may want to come over. I have to say “No”. On Saturday mornings in Winter I take my kids to soccer, anything else gets a “No”.