You know perfectly well that if you permitted it, everyone would simply dump all of their work on you. Your juniors ask for guidance and help, so you take an active role in the tasks you had assigned them. Your peers ask for advice and support, so you become a silent partner in their careers. Your bosses are so busy that they ask you to take on this or that extra duty, so you wind up doing their scut work while they focus on the high-vis glamor jobs (or so it seems, because you are all really in the same boat.).
Everyone’s tasks would be yours. And, of course, you don’t allow this. You know how, in one tactful way or another, to say no, or at least to redirect the request. The problem is that you feel guilty about it. But what you really should be doing is developing, exploring, and strengthening this skill, and glorifying in it.
It may be helpful to review just a few of the articles from these pages that have addressed this topic:
- Time management for managers – why the smart and lazy officer makes a better commander than the smart and energetic one.
- Competitive Advantage: the flip side of prioritizing – when inactivity is a virtue.
- Not to do list – why you should, in Leo Babauta‘s happy phrase, “default to no.”
The key to understanding the morals of these pieces is to explore the logic (if there is any) behind every tasking you get. Yesterday, we talked about your tasks running you over with their sense of urgency. You should never accept that agitation without challenging it. What if there is really no lion chasing them, after all? And if there is, perhaps there is a better way of taming it.
When you prioritize tasks, don’t just do so on the basis of others’ estimate of their importance or time sensitivity. You might just as well hand your agenda over to them and let them fill it in for you.
Rather, look at each tasking independently and objectively, and make it justify its presence and position on your to-do list. Establish an action threshold, and if a newly presented task can’t surmount it, ignore it.
Certainly, your value to your organization comes from what you do. But your ability to do it comes from what you don’t do.
Try creating a not-to-do list in your agenda, and proudly record all the things you’ve decided you simply will not spend your limited time on. Review it now and then: it will give you the courage of a lion.
You may wish to see all the posts in this series:
Today’s tip: Speaking of time management, see this item from the NY Times about people can delegate the organizing of their personal lives – their homes, free time, and even establishment of friendships. Consider the work/life balance implications in this.
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