Saying Yes on Purpose

This week I’ve been much more cognizant of whether I’m saying yes or no to new commitments–or even small tasks.

Given my commitment to saying ‘no’ this week, I am hyper aware when I say ‘yes.’ And I’m extremely conscious of the effect that ‘yes’ has on my day.

My word for the year is Generosity, so it feels extremely strange to notice when I agree to help someone out at work (with something that doesn’t fit my job description) or attend a meeting or anything else that removes me from focused attention on commitments that line themselves up with my current priorities.

The gift is in noticing and being conscious of the decisions. When I help someone format a document for a sales presentation (outside of my description, technically), I lose time focusing on my top 3-4 tasks and priorities at work.

BUT, I still don’t mind doing it. The problem comes when I unconsciously bounce from ad hoc bit of assistance to ad hoc bit of assistance to random web-surfing to making coffee.

Saying yes when I know what I’m exchanging for that time is much better than saying yes just because someone popped his or her head in my office and asked. I’m aware that I’m losing time on moving other projects forward.

What is the lesson here?

What I’m learning this week is that being aware of my decisions around tasks makes me more focused during the time when I’m sitting at my desk and needing to be productive. It also helps me put certain controls in place such as keeping my door nearly closed, allowing myself to work for a 20-30 minute clip with my email and phone turned off, and, finally, simply saying ‘no’.

A Simple ‘Yes’ Challenge

If you tend to say ‘yes’ more than you need to, try to make a note of it every time you say ‘yes’. If there’s a specific problem area (friends, family members, volunteer obligations, extraneous work ‘tasks’, food choices, etc.), focus in on those areas.

  • If your friend asks you for coffee and you say ‘yes’, make a note.
  • If your coworker asks you to help him fix the copier, make a note.
  • If the ‘perfect’ Groupon deal comes up in your old Yahoo account, and you must have it, make a note.
  • If that optional project at work pops up, and you say yes, make a note.
  • If you feel like you have to say yes to 13 chores in a day, make a note.

Then, at the end of the week or a few days, look at all of your Yes’s (yesses?).

Now think about this: What did each ‘Yes’ cost you?

And also think about whether or not saying ‘yes’ became less of an unconscious addictive habit and more of a mindful, conscious choice.

I’m guessing that at the very least, noticing your ‘yes’ will make your non-yes time much more purposeful.

I’d love to hear if you give this little idea a shot. Leave a comment and let me know.

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