If YOU don’t prioritise your life, someone else will!

15 04 2014

Just read this fantastic article on LinkedIn, written by Greg McKeown, speaker and author of, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Greg has some amazing and very practical insights into how we can make our lives simpler, and achieve more balance in the day to day.

This article focuses on the importance on saying NO when you need to. A vital skill that I am convinced can add hours to our weeks, days to our years and years to our lives! For people pleasers like myself, one of the most powerful points is this: when faced with a decision where you don’t want to let someone down by saying no, separate the decision from the relationship. Sometimes these seem so interconnected, we forget there are two different questions we need to answer. By deliberately dividing these questions, we can make a more conscious choice. Answer the question, “What is the right decision?” and then “How can I communicate this as kindly as possible?”

Enjoy!

Quinton

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Image“A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” So said Mahatma Gandhi, and we all know how his conviction played out on the world stage. But what is less well known is how this same discipline played out privately with his own grandson, Arun Gandhi.

Arun grew up in South Africa. When he was a young boy, he was beaten up twice: once for being too white and once for being too black. Still angry, Arun was sent to spend time with his grandfather. In an interview with Arun, he told me that his grandfather was in demand from many important people, yet he still prioritized his grandson, spending an hour a day for 18 months just listening to Arun. It proved to be a turning point in Arun’s life.

I had the opportunity to apply Gandhi’s example of prioritization to my own life, hours before one of my daughters was born. I felt pressure to go to a client meeting the next day. But on this occasion, I knew what to do. It was clearly a time to be there for my wife and child. So, when asked to attend the meeting, I said with all the conviction I could muster…

“Yes.”

To my shame, while my wife lay in the hospital with my hours-old baby, I went to the meeting. Afterward, my manager said, “The client will respect you for making the decision to be here.” But the look on the clients’ faces mirrored how I felt. What was I doing there?! I had not lived true to Gandhi’s saying. I had said “yes” to please.

As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. And even if the client had respected my choice, and key business opportunities had resulted, I would still have struck a fool’s bargain. My wife supported me and trusted me to make the right choice under the circumstances, and I had opted to deprioritize her and my child.

Why did I do it? I have two confessions:

First, I allowed social awkwardness to trump making the right decision. I wasn’t forced to attend the meeting. Instead, I was so anxious to please that even awkward silent pauses on the phone were too much for me. In order to stop the social pain, I said “yes” when I knew the answer should be “no.”

Second, I believed that “I had to make this work.” Logically, I knew I had a choice, but emotionally, I felt that I had no choice. That one corrupted assumption psychologically removed many of the actual choices available to me.

What can you do to avoid the mistake of saying “yes” when you know the answer should be “no”?

First, separate the decision from the relationship. Sometimes these seem so interconnected, we forget there are two different questions we need to answer. By deliberately dividing these questions, we can make a more conscious choice. Answer the question, “What is the right decision?” and then “How can I communicate this as kindly as possible?”

Second, watch your language. Every time we say, “I have to take this call” or “I have to send this piece of work off” or “I have to go to this client meeting,” we are assuming that previous commitments are nonnegotiable. Every time you use the phrase “I have to” over the next week, stop and replace it with “I choose to.” It can feel a little odd at first — and in some cases it can even be gut-wrenching (if we are choosing the wrong priority). But ultimately, using this language reminds us that we are making choices, which enables us to make a different choice.

Third, avoid working for or with people who don’t respect your priorities. It may sound simplistic, but this is a truly liberating rule! There are people who share your values and as a result make it natural to live your priorities. It may take a while to find an employment situation like this, but you can set your course to that destination immediately.

Saying “yes” when we should be saying “no” can seem like a small thing in the moment. But over time, such compromises can create a life of regrets. Indeed, an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded the most often-discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I have a vision of people everywhere having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life others expect of them.

To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is, and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I challenge you to be wiser than I was on the day of my daughter’s birth. I have great confidence in the good that can come from such a decision.

Years from now when you are on your death bed you may still have regrets. But seeking the way of the Essentialist is unlikely to be one of them. What would you trade then to be back here now for one chance—this chance—to be true to yourself? On that day what will you hope you decided to do on this one?

 

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Kill the Compulsive Phone-Grab: Regaining Control & Clarity

4 04 2014

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Just read this article by Greg McKeown, a business writer, consultant and researcher specialising in leadership, strategy and social behaviour. Greg is the author of the newly published book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, available here on Amazon: http://goo.gl/JKLel9.

As a busy and connected “Gen Y” professional, I am one of the worst when it comes to following the urge to check that smartphone every time it buzzes or beeps. A new email? What if it’s important??

While I don’t think realistically I will ever be one to keep a journal every day, this article put some things in perspective for me. It’s a good reminder of the importance of setting your own priorities and your own pace. In a world overflowing with (mostly trivial) information, demands and things to do, too often we try to attendtoeverythingatonce, and we end up getting nothing done well.

ImageA habit I am developing slowly is to spend 20 minutes every morning in my favourite café, take out a notebook and plan what I want to get done for the day. Amazing how when you set the framework of your day before you enter the office, it is that much easier to stick to the plan and avoid reacting to everything that comes across your desk (or screen). As someone once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Step back, give yourself the time to think. The more PROactive and less REactive we are, the more we are in control of our days and lives. And that, I find, is one of the single largest factors in personal satisfaction and happiness.

Enjoy the article.

Quinton

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One Thing Productive People Do Before Reaching for their Phones

Greg McKeown

In a recent study reported in TIME magazine, people check their phone on average 110 times a day. Some people checked it as much as 900 times a day; that’s once every minute of every waking hour of the day. Given those extremes, I don’t believe it makes me a Luddite to suggest it may be more productive – and certainly more Essentialist – to reach for a pocket notebook or journal before your phone. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Checking your phone forces you to be reactive than pro-active; it creates pressure to respond to texts and emails when other people want you to, rather than when it’s convenient for you. Writing in your notebook puts you back in control of your communication; it gives you the chance to craft your reply instead of shooting it off reactively, and respond on your schedule, not someone else’s.
  2. Checking your phone fills you with that frenetic, compulsive feeling that you might be missing out. Writing in your notebook has a calming influence.
  3. Checking your phone tricks you with the trivial; it fools you into thinking that news and updates from the virtual world are more important than what’s right in from of you in the actual world right now. Writing in your notebook reminds you of what’s important right now.
  4. Checking your phone fills every spare moment with noise. Writing in your notebook provides you time to think and reflect.

Of course, the benefits of writing in a notebook or journal go beyond the realm of productivity. One of my grandfathers died a few years ago. Upon going through his things, I was struck by what I found, or rather what I didn’t find: not a single journal or notebook or any kind of written record about the life he had lived. Contrast this with my other Grandfather in England who wrote a single line in his journal every couple of days for some fifty years.

What I am saying is that if we want to leave a legacy to those who come after us one powerful way to do it is to write a journal. David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian has said if you want to become the voice of your generation, write a journal entry every day and then gift it to your local university library at the end of your life. Voice of your generation or not, I believe that a journal is one of the most precious gifts you can give to those you leave behind.

If journaling sounds too daunting a task for you, I suggest the following simple way to get started:

Write One Sentence Every Day. If you want to create this new Essentialist habit, use this counter- intuitive yet effective method: write less than you feel like writing. Typically, when people start to keep a journal they write pages the first day. Then by the second day the prospect of writing so much is daunting, and they procrastinate or abandon the exercise. So instead, even if you feel like writing more, force yourself to write no more than one sentence a day. Apply the disciplined pursuit of “less but better” to your journal.

In an article called, “If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will” I suggest a step by step process for making sure you are using your life for what really matters. When you have a year’s worth of journal entries to look back on, it will broaden your perspective and greatly enhance your ability to more clearly see the difference between the many things in your life that are mere distractions and the few things that are truly vital.

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