Productive Living
David Allen

Hi Folks,

Deciding that you're not going to do something is a subtle and critical component of Getting Things Done and is one of the most challenging aspects of self-management. Most of us hate to say "no"—to ourselves and to others. But there are practical things we can do to make that process more positive and dynamic.

A key principle in operation here is that if you don't know exactly what you've already said "yes" to, then it's hard to have the confidence to say "no." When you do have a complete and trusted inventory of your current commitments, at every level, your ability to more consciously and graciously decline potential new ones will automatically be enhanced.

All the best,



Keeping track of the balances due...

A client of mine told me that one of the most powerful things that happened as a result of my workflow coaching with him was that with all his incompletions objectified and captured in one system and easily reviewable, it made it suddenly much easier to say "no".

Beforehand, with no edges to the inventory of his commitments, his personality and style would let him tell all kinds of people that he was willing to do all kinds of things for them. Now, with his workload reality so well defined, he realized he was doing them and himself a serious disservice—to make promises that more than likely would not get fulfilled.

He said that many times since the coaching session, people have requested his time, and he has had to swallow hard and decline. Amazingly, he said, they have all not only understood, but expressed positive awe at his discipline and focus, and gratitude for his realistic appraisal of his time and priorities.

Many of us feel like we don't have the luxury to put up these STOP signs. Our children, bosses, parents, and pets continually produce unexpected demands and opportunities to take on more to do.

But just like credit cards, you have limits to your bandwidth of possible engagements. If you don't know what those are, clearly, the ability to say "yes" feels like free money, and "no" is a rarity in your vocabulary. But the end result is unhealthy stress, frustration, and disappointment, often with all parties involved—not just yourself. The piper will be paid. There are hard conversations you might need to have. Fulfilling the deeper commitments in your life, supporting your integrity, is more easily sustained by monitoring your agreements. All of them.

Give yourself the gift of a realistic assessment of your internal bank account.

"When you arrive at a certain level it's very easy to say 'yes': that is the moment to learn to say 'no'."

-Jose Carreras

"Saying 'no' politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life."

-Richard Chamberlain


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