A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution: Saying No
1. Distill the key objectives for your creative project or business down to just a few items.You can't very well decide what NOT to do if you aren't crystal clear on what you want to achieve. What are you trying to accomplish in the short-term (this week, this month)? What are you trying to accomplish in the long-term (this year, the next 5 years)? These goals shouldn't be a laundry list of 10 or 20 things. Instead, they should be limited and achievable – perhaps just 2-3 items. If you're about to agree to do something that doesn't push you toward any of these goals, consider saying, “No.”
2. Kill ideas with gusto.Though they charm us with their novelty, new ideas are actually the arch-enemy of project completion. Whether they expand the scope of an existing project or pull our attention away to an entirely new project, new ideas regularly steer us off-course. Consider filing away that new idea in a “backburner” document – a running list of ideas you want to come back to – until you have some energy freed up. If it still seems earth-shatteringly brilliant when you revisit it, then it's probably worth doing. If it doesn't, good thing you didn't waste your time.
3. Ruthlessly prune your action steps.Often we add seemingly crucial action steps to our to-do lists, only to find – a week later – that they're still languishing, un-done. One best practice is to review your action steps weekly – if not daily – and ruthlessly prune away the items that seem unnecessary (or ineffectual) after further thought. If you can even debate whether it's worth doing or not, your energy would probably be better spent elsewhere.
4. Be willing to reject unexpected “opportunities.”Whether it’s a new client dangling a fat paycheck or a needy friend who requires your creative expertise, opportunities will inevitably arise that we struggle with rejecting for financial or emotional reasons. We think that it would seem impolite or selfish, that the extra money would be nice, that the client might not come back. But consider this: If you don’t have the bandwidth to execute a project to the best of your abilities, you’re better off saying no. You don’t get overwhelmed, the client doesn’t get disappointed, and your professional standing remains good. More than just discipline, saying no requires faith in the value of your goals. If you remain focused and cultivate your chosen expertise, you will eventually become a magnet for the right projects and people. Then, all those missed “opportunities” – which would have distracted you and depleted your energy – won’t really seem to matter anymore.
More about Jocelyn K. Glei
A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.