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Productivity is about deletion… not addition

By April 14, 20123 Comments

The old style productivity or time management programs will teach you how to arrange all the activities you have in systems including calendars, task lists, folders… and while this is all good information … it is flawed! Productivity is not about addition; it’s about deletion!

It’s not about adding more to your already full plate, it’s about deleting activities from your plate.

Say no … often!

We need to say NO often … and over and over again.  Clients from around the world, struggle with this powerful word. People want to be seen as ‘team players’ and feel if they say ‘no’ they might offend someone.

No is a full sentence.

No doesn’t require explanation.

No means no.

I love ‘no’. I think it is a great word to become your friend if you want to sound more productive.

Of course the power of no is all in your delivery (tone, inflection and facial expressions).

We all know we don’t have time to do everything; we only have time to do what matters.

To allow you to achieve what matters consider these strategies to help incorporate ‘no’ into your language:

Just say ‘no’ – no doesn’t require an explanation. You can still gracefully decline an invitation for a social event or a meeting request on the condition that you do it with kindness and don’t go into a long-winded explanation.  If you can’t attend an event simply say ‘thank you for kindly thinking of me’ – that’s it – nothing else required.

Ask yourself a simple question ‘is this the best use of my time right now’? This simple but effective question will allow you to discontinue working on something and refocus on what matters.

Deletion might mean delegation – You might also like to ask yourself ‘am I the best person to be working on this?’ Are you investing time in activities that could potentially be delegated or outsourced to others that could help you achieve your goals?

Deletion is a choice (just like addition) however some of the most productive people I know do less… not more! What can you choose to delete today?

We would love to hear your thoughts and your ideas. Share them with us on our blog.

Now that’s productive!

PS. For more ideas on how to productively delegate – click here


  • Greg Nathan says:

    I have built my life around being a “yes man”. Not to people’s opinions (which is why I am commenting on this blog) but to people’s needs. If someone is genuine and asks for my help the answer is “yes”. If I get the feeling someone is trying to take advantage of me I just ignore them (okay, maybe sometimes I say no). In a busy, self centred world generosity of spirit needs to be encouraged. So I say no to saying no.

  • Theresa Smith says:

    I enjoyed your presentation to the NY ALA. During your presentation you mentioned additional material you had available. Is it possible to receive the material via email.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    Greg, I think you may be missing Neen’s point. There’s only so much to which you can say “yes” (whether it’s stuff for yourself, or for others) before you come right up against the limits of your physical health or sanity. It can include saying “no” to scrubbing your own floors so you can say “yes’ to taking your children to brunch. It can include saying “no” to being “volunteered” for a cause that isn’t dear to your heart, doesn’t land anywhere near the top (or even the middle) of your own priorities, isn’t something at which you excel and, frankly, takes you away from the things about which you’re passionate.

    The whole point of feeling empowered to saying “no” — if I read Neen the way I think I do — is that you can then say yes to things that matter. Your process may work for you, but you probably already do a good job of saying “no” to the things you can’t do easily, happily or well so that you actually can focus on giving of yourself the way you describe. Generosity of spirit isn’t at all at odds with what Neen is saying — very often, we’re not the right or best person to be doing something, and it’s pointless to say no to something in our value system just so that someone who wants us to put them first (over all of our other obligations and passions), even if it falls outside our valued priorities.

    Yes and No are flip sides of the same coin; when you say “no” to something that drains you of physical or mental energy, you invigorate yourself for the things to which you can say “yes” to doing that will help you and others achieve more meaning.

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