Focusing is about saying “no”. Steve Jobs
The most important decisions are not the “yeses” that take you forward but the “nos” which protect your focus and time and hence allow the “yeses” to succeed. It is a fallacy to believe you will always have time for everything, as when you take on the workload and strain of management this will not be the case. Therefore how you use and, perhaps even more so, how you protect your time will be vital to your success as a leader. It is good habit as a leader to remind yourself that perhaps your most important decisions are what you say “no” to.
Your most important decisions are what you say “no” to.
Saying “no” is not easy to do well. It is not about saying “no” to the things you don’t like, nor is it as simple as saying “no” just cause you don’t have time, rather it is about prioritizing and assessing the usage of your time. Strategic goal setting and backward planning help you to know what you should be saying “no” to, as done well, your backward plan should provide a solid framework, both for where you are going and for what you should be doing and therefore protecting. In a simple sense, if the task that comes up is not contributing to your strategic goals, it should be a “no”.
What you do should be linked to your strategic goals.
However, saying this, things are not always so simple to assess as sometimes the task that came up might be an opportunity to reassess how you get to your overall goals and objectives, so on these occasions it would be well worth the time to say “yes”. Also if a relationship building thing, for example making time for an employee who is struggling, it may be essential to do, as if you don’t, this employee’s productivity and feeling of team will be negatively effected. However the notion of saying “no” remains, as although you may need to say “yes” to a new task, some existing task should most likely now be a “no” as otherwise you are unlikely to keep your focus on your objectives. Forming success lists over to do lists will undoubtedly help you to assess which task to replace. Nearly always it will come from the “could do” section.
Even if you have to say “yes” to a new task, it is “wise” to look at existing tasks and say “no” to one of those.
So as you undertake your quest to be the best manager you can be, remind yourself that success is not doing everything but rather doing the things that matter most. Doing the things that most benefit your strategic objectives or harm those objectives if not done. A great way to keep your focus on your key goals is being willing to say “no”. Not saying “no” to everything new but rather critically assessing each new thing and judging how it does, or doesn’t, contribute towards your overall objectives.
Remind yourself of the importance of saying “no”!