How to Boost Your Productivity With Just One Little Word

One Word

This is a guest post by Linda Coussement. Linda helps entrepreneurs lead, grow and improve their remarkable businesses. Download her 10 page interactive Vision Guide and get a flying start to the growth and improvement of YOUR business.

Isn’t it hard to say NO?

Sure you can take on that extra project.

And sure you can work on those little action points today if your boss or client asks.

And of course you have 10 minutes to have a quick coffee with the colleague in distress.

Saying yes to all of this makes you seem like the perfect employee, colleague or business to work with, but really you’re just tying yourself in knots. Because all this “yes” saying is costing you your precious work time. And making up for it means making more hours or working weekends.

So even though saying yes feels very positive, you’re experiencing less productivity and more stress from it.  So, what can you do?

Start At The End

Do you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve?

This is essential if you want to be able to manage your workload effectively.

This counts for both the end of the day, but also the week, month, year or even the much longer term. Knowing what you’re working towards will give you a frame of reference and therefore a sharper – and much easier to communicate – focus for the task at hand.

If you’re for example envisioning to work on project A that day, it’ll be a lot less likely that you’re going to spend time researching something for project B.

Work Your Way Back To Now

Into what smaller – and more manageable – steps does that picture break down?

Basically, you’re creating your planning AND building your list of priorities.

You break up the big end goal in logical categories and those categories in distinguishable actions. Make sure these, and only these, go on the to-do list of that period.

Define a realistic deadline for every single task you distinguish and be sure to build in some extra buffer time as things never really go according to plan.

Make A Decision

Are you fully committed to what you want to achieve?

Everybody who has ever had a big hairy goal in mind and failed to get there knows that it’s often due to the lack of a strong, passionate and unmovable decision. (Not counting unforeseen external circumstances, of course).

Without this decision, it will be hard to stick to the plan and get to your desired results. Temptations will sway you and procrastination will find you a whole lot sooner.

Compare it to you choosing to eat a light salad when everyone else is eating pizza; it has to be that strong!

Spread The Word

Do the people around you know what you’re working towards and the limitations you have in time?

Communicate your goal and your deadlines to the people that might distract you (including your boss). If they know and understand what you’re doing, you won’t have to say no as much.

It’s like when you’re dieting and you’re making sure your spouse doesn’t bring gallons of ice-cream into the house…

Start Saying NO

In theory it is quite simple: you have your clear goal, your plan, your deadline and you’re committed to get there but what if…

Your colleague comes by and wants to blow off some steam over a cup of coffee?

You say NO.


Perhaps, but impromptu cups of coffee all add up in time and divert you from your goal.

And what about your manager who stops by and asks you to review a report for project B before the end of the day?

You say NO again…

Find The Win Win Solution

Saying NO doesn’t mean that you have to be rude and final; you just have to figure out when or what WOULD work.

You could for example ask your colleague to join you for the lunch you were going to have anyway instead of that coffee break. Or call when you’re on your way home.

Perhaps your boss forgot that you’re only working on project A for now. And maybe your colleague working on project B can take on this review; you’ve helped her out many other times so why not?

Saying NO will boost your productivity.

But…it’s not as simple as just saying no. You’ll need to make sure all the conditions are in place to make it happen in a relaxed and responsible way.

It will take some practice, and it might feel awkward sometimes.

But wouldn’t it be great if you could tick off ALL your planned action boxes for once?

Question: What can you say “no” to today, to boost your productivity? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

9 thoughts on “How to Boost Your Productivity With Just One Little Word

  1. Good points in this post! I find feeling ok about saying no is especially hard…still working on that part 🙂

    1. Thanks Leslie! The fact that it is hard is a really good thing! It essentially means you just want to be a nice person. Just keep in mind though how much trouble you’ll get yourself in if you keep saying ‘yes’ 🙂

  2. Saying no is the quickest way to clearing out time and getting to the essentials of what we want to accomplish. Really like the angle you take when approaching productivity, reminds me so much of the startup environment.

    However, regarding the no, I’ve found that politically correct way to approach it, when dealing with sensitive people is just to delay the answer, or say: “I don’t have the time for it, at this moment”. It’s all about how you phrase it.

    1. Good point Bojan! It’s still a no, and you’re still looking for that win win solution but it’s just phrased differently. Politics has never been my strongpoint but I’ll make an effort to include it in following posts. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for this post, Linda – it’s something I’ve heard before but it’s nice to see laid out how much more productive we can really be if we stop trying to please everyone in the moment. I think especially in smaller companies it’s easy to want to take on everything because everyone else seems so busy as well…but it’s really not healthy and more important priorities might get shifted to the side.

    1. You’re welcome Natalie! You’re right in that is is not healthy (for you and for the business) to just do everything, no matter how tempting that might seem and how much work is there to be done. That’s why, apart from saying no and creating the conditions to do so, you also need to make sure you’re doing the right things right!

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