The Art Of Saying No: 4 Ways To Reclaim Your Time

We believe that we always have to say yes to opportunities. We fear that saying no leads us to miss out on money, fun, and other experiences. However, by always saying yes, we do not value our time. Blindly, we say yes to everything that comes our way. We often do not look at saying “no” as a skill or something that is essential to success and happiness.

If we are at work and our manager asks us to hand in a report before the end of the day, we say, “sure thing.” It interrupts our work, and often forces us to push other things aside.

We say yes in our personal lives all the time. When friends ask us to go out while we have other things to do, we say yes. We do friends or acquaintances a favor, without thinking about it. We even say yes to bigger things that we do not want. For instance, we take jobs we do not like or start relationships with people we do not love.

Why do we do this? We are afraid to say no, to let people down and ultimately, to avoid confrontation. The stress of saying no often makes us say yes automatically. When we say yes reluctantly, we complain or blame ourselves, “why couldn’t I just say no?”

On of the reasons we find it difficult to say no is because we want to conform to other people’s expectations. Sometimes we have to make decisions that will influence our life’s outcome. In those cases, you cannot be afraid to say no. When parents expect their children to go to university, the children often give into the pressure. We are all unique and have things we want from life, so asking people to do something they do not like is not fair (no matter how badly you want it). If you do not wish to go to university because of a good reason, then do not enroll. We have to follow our passion and make our path.

Ways To Say No

It is not a crime to say no. Your friends and family will understand, they will still care about you, even when you cannot make certain social engagements. And if your friends do not get it, it is probably time to find new friends. When we truly care about someone we will still care about them if they miss an activity.
Besides, when it comes to a job, say no to everything that is not essential to your work. People will respect you for doing your job and not wasting time on meetings and coffee breaks.

1. The indirect “No.”

Starting to say no can be awkward. Most people prefer to start with an indirect approach. In your personal life, you can say, “look, I want to join you for drinks, but I have to work on this project because it is important to me.” When you start saying no more often, it is fine to make excuses so that you avoid saying yes. That is the primary goal when you start saying no. You do not want to do something, so find a way to say no without feeling uncomfortable.

2. The “Let me get back to you.”

We are often caught off guard with invitations or requests from people. We feel the pressure to answer those requests immediately. Next time when you are caught off guard, often by phone or in person, tell them, “I just have to look at my calendar, let me get back to you about that.” Alternatively, we can say that we have to discuss it with our spouse or family first before we can answer.

3. The conditional “Yes.”

You do not always have to say no. When your boss asks you to collect information before the end of the day, you cannot say no to that. What we can do is to force our boss to prioritize. If you work in sales, for example, you can say, “I can give you the information, but that means that I cannot make the ten calls we agreed on today. Is that all right?” With this conditional yes, we force people to prioritize. It shows that you have other things on your plate.

4. The direct “No.”

Once you are comfortable with saying no more often, you can take the ultimate step in mastering saying no. We give people excuses of why we cannot do something. We say that we cannot have lunch because of a “doctor’s appointment”. We feel socially awkward just to say, “I cannot make lunch this week.” When you have mastered saying no, you stop giving excuses and start to say no firmly. Practice makes perfect.

 

 

Thanks For Reading!

 

I’m Darius Foroux—an entrepreneur, author, and podcaster.

I publish weekly articles on overcoming procrastination, improving productivity, and achieving more. Never want to miss an article?

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Improve your productivity by eliminating mindless browsing

We all have days we feel unproductive or that we did not do anything. When you feel you are not productive, the chances are that it is because interruptions and multitasking drain your energy. When you juggle multiple things simultaneously, like; sending an email, text a friend and checking your Facebook while you are in a meeting, you engage in context switching. In a research done by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, it showed that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Since we are interrupted more than once, this adds up quickly and before you know it you feel like you have done nothing that day.

Clifford Nass, a sociologist from Stanford University, has researched the impact of multitasking and found that people who engage in multitasking are “suckers for irrelevancy.” We engage in multitasking because we are distracted by notifications, which are addictive. We cannot control ourselves; we must look at the notification to see who or what wants our attention. Every time a notification pops up on our screen, we get a rush that releases dopamine.

Dopamine is one of the body’s happy chemicals; it controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain and makes you feel joy. This joyous feeling is addictive and makes us seek out behaviors that stimulate dopamine. You can think about food, sex, drugs and the notifications you receive on your screen. While dopamine may cause a rush, it also exhausts us. That is why you still feel tired at the end of the day while you have not been productive. This is a harmful process, and we need to stop this pattern.

The Fix: Eliminate Browsing

Being productive can be as simple as taking control over your day. What harms your productivity the most is browsing. It absolutely kills it. We’ve all experienced a distortion in time when we are browsing. “What?! I just did NOTHING for 2 hours.” Yes, we even do this at work. Set daily priorities, book your calendar full, etc, the point is; do something.

Why you should create a personal Manifesto

I’ve made a manifesto that reminds me of how I want to live my life. You might think; don’t you know yourself? No, I don’t have dementia or a personality disorder. I think that you uncover your own personality throughout the years.

With a graphic manifesto, that I initially made for personal use, I summarized what I’ve learned. It reminds me what I value in life and how I want to live my life. Because when the going gets tough, a lot of values are thrown out of the window. When I experience difficulty, I often go back to my natural response and that is to say, “I don’t give shit.” But the truth is that I DO give a shit.

A quick look at my manifesto reminds me of the person that I choose to be. People often say, “this is how I am.” I do not agree with that statement. We CHOOSE to behave in a certain way. It’s simple as that. We decide who we want to be, and then we behave according to that role. Additionally, we are all sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and citizens. We should behave according to our role. Epictetus says the following about this:

“Remember that you are somebody’s son. What does this social role mean? It means regarding everything of yours as belonging to your father as well.” 

“Know that you are a brother. This role also calls for deference, respect, and civility.” 

Epictetus describes a citizen as, “a person who never acts in his own interest or thinks of himself alone (..) all its actions and desires aim at nothing except contributing to the common good.”

My manifesto says who I am and what my beliefs are. I’ve made it with Canva.com (I’m not affiliated). I highly encourage you to create a manifesto, if you haven’t already. Especially a graphic one that you can put on your desk or workspace. Sometimes when we act out, we just need a little reminder of what we want to be.

Here’s my manifesto

MY MANIFESTO

How to find your dream job: 9 steps to land an awesome job

Many people have a job they don’t like. Many take jobs they don’t like. The reason we take jobs we don’t like is because we need money. I can’t think of any other reason people would waste their time doing something that are not passionate about. I challenge you to find your dream job—a job that you love doing 7 days a week. Work that doesn’t feel like work. In that way, you are not only living for the weekend.

Many of us only live in the weekend and after 5 pm on weekdays. ‘The American Time Use Survey’ shows that we spend almost 40% of our time at work. Would you waste 40% of your money? I’ve never heard an average person saying, “I have $10.000 in savings, I’ll just throw $4.000 away.”

Time is more valuable than money. So why would you give away your time? By doing what you love to do, you are doing something of meaning. Stop the busy work and find a job that you love.

  1. Decide exactly what kind of job you want. If the job doesn’t exist, create it.
  2. Choose the company or person you want to work for.
  3. Study your potential future employer
  4. Find out what kind of competencies you need to be successful
  5. Do a strengths/weaknesses analysis of yourself. You have to be clear on what kind of value you can offer.
  6. Create a plan of how you’re going to develop your competencies you need further.
  7. Now, apply. Forget about job openings or vacancies. If you can add value to a company, they would be idiots not hiring you.
  8. Once you know what job you want, what the company needs, what competencies you have, and what value you can add, put it on paper. Hire a copywriter or who can help you with his. Or have someone who is in sales look at it. You have to be persuasive.
  9. Find out who has the ‘power’ to hire you. Browse LinkedIn for the senior manager of the department you want to work for. If it is a smaller company, contact the CEO.

This method may take you longer and more analysis of your skills. But it’s worth it. Financially and mentally. By doing something you love you will save yourself many headaches in the long run. You’ll probably earn more money as well. If you follow the standard hierarchy and climb the ladder like everybody else, you will earn exactly the same as everybody else.

 

 

Thanks For Reading!

 

I’m Darius Foroux—an entrepreneur, author, and podcaster.

I publish weekly articles on overcoming procrastination, improving productivity, and achieving more. Never want to miss an article?

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Leaders who try to get everyone on the same page do more harm than good for your company

Managers and leaders often talk about “getting everyone on the same page”. While they think that in is more productive if everyone works in the same way, the opposite is true. The real reason managers and whole companies try to get everybody on the same page is because they are weak and afraid. They think that molding everyone into a set of company values and processes will create a unified army of workers. This way of thinking is advocated by many managers. They believe that people will work better when they are more alike.

By trying to make every think and work alike, you weaken the differences between people. And very often, the differences between people lead to great results. By decreasing differences between people, you also kill creativity and natural flow. The feeling that you have to work in a described way by your manager, makes most of us less motivated.

So the real danger is that when you try to turn people into something they are not, they bring less energy and motivation to the task. Initially people might be enthusiastic about a new direction. You see this effect often with new managers, they believe that their strategy is working. Which is true, but it will not last.

Instead of molding people into something you want them to be, relax and open up to people’s unique visions. As a leader, you can offer your people a framework so they can do their job. For instance, Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to let Jony Ive flourish. Jobs knew better, he had fallen to the tyranny of fearful management by John Sculley. Not able to keep Jobs in check, Sculley made sure Jobs was fired.

Everyone has to be a leader sooner or later. Think of small projects you might have to lead with a handful of people That is enough to demonstrate your leadership. By not being afraid of people’s capabilities and talents, you can let them excel in what they do. This will ultimately lead to better results.

 

 

How exercise improves the strength of your brain

There is a large body of research that shows positive effects of exercise on our brain. In short, neuroscientists have found 2 main improvements. First, exercise improves alertness, attention and motivation. Second, it stimulates the storage of new information in your brain.  In short, exercising will make you smarter.

That is the good news. The bad news is that it takes real effort. There are no magic pills, super effective 2 minute workouts, or other shortcuts. If you want to exercise your brain (your brain can actually increase in size), you have to put in the work. Similar to your muscles, your brain needs training to grow.

What kind of exercise?

Cardiovascular training
Get your heart rate up by running, cycling, or circuit training.

Sports that need motor abilities
Exercise that demands coordination forces your mind to work more compared to jogging. You think of tennis, basketball, or anything else that needs motor skills.

Stretching and Flexibility workouts
Flexibility is often overlooked. Even by people who workout for years.  Stretching, and being more flexible in general, will decrease the risk of injuries. For example, you have more chances of back injuring if you have short hamstrings.

Switch things up. Are going to the gym for 3 times a week for years? Take up Yoga. Are you addicted to spinning class? Hit the weights once per week. The key is to have variety in your exercise routines. This is not only good for your body, but also your mind.

Training Intensity
The real magic happens at higher intensity. This is only recommended for people who are not new to exercising. Starting with high-intensity workouts is harmful if you do not have at least 6-8 months of consistent daily exercise under your belt. Researchers recommend to have at least 30 minutes of exercise 6 days a week. If you are new to exercise, start by taking 30-minute walks. Every day. You will start feeling better immediately.

Working out at high intensity (70%-90% of your maximum heart rate), stimulates a lot of dopamine. The same happy chemical that is associated with sex, food, and social interactions. Serotonin is also affected by exercise. This has a positive effect on your self-esteem.

No matter how hard you train, working out at low intensity has benefits. Next time you don’t feel like going to the gym, remind yourself that is the exact reason you are going. You will feel better after your workout. Don’t trust me, trust the science.

 

 

5 speed reading strategies to instantly read faster

Speed reading helps you to develop your knowledge at a faster pace

Do you love reading and learning new things? Or do you have to read many documents for work? We live in a fast-paced world: information is the centerpiece of most of our lives. In our personal life, there are so many things we want to learn. And if you are a knowledge worker, chances are you have to read emails, rapports, and other documents on a daily basis. Multitasking hurts our productivity. And there is so much to read, but so little time, right? That isn’t necessarily true. Speed reading is something that has had a lot of attention in recent years. People are always looking for ways to get things done more efficiently. By learning to speed read you significantly process more information and get things done more quickly. However, with most speed reading techniques, you are required to adapt your natural reading style.

A Google search for ‘speed reading’ yields multiple methods. Most of them revolve eye coordination, reading between lines, skipping words, or visualizing while you are reading. In the past few years, I’ve tried different techniques. I found that it was useful and productive at first, but after 1 or 2 days, I would fall back in my old patterns. For example: moving my eyes super fast didn’t feel natural. Similar to the ‘visualizing technique’: this requires you to visualize every word you read. While I am not questioning the effectiveness of these (proven) methods, I do think that they are not for everybody. The problem is that we are creatures of habit—changing how we read is something extremely difficult because it is something we’ve learned as children. I’ve found five strategies that you can apply, without changing the way you read. These strategies are not focusing on the actual reading technique. But rather on strategies that will improve the time you can finish a book or document. It is not necessarily about words per minute. It is finishing something in less time than before—but still capturing all information.

5 ways to read faster

The biggest obstacle that stands in most of our’s way is the misconceptions we have about reading. We believe that we have to read every single word in a book, article, or document to understand it. We simply do not have the time to read every single word—it doesn’t matter how fast you read. We believe that we have to memorize everything because of pressure from school—we had to remember everything because we had exams. Trying to remember everything you read is a waste of time—we forget the material that our brain stores in it’s short-term memory after a couple of days. So it is time to get rid of a few misconceptions and hack your reading methods.

1. Learn the ‘art’ of skipping

Our brain can understand concepts without having to read a full book or article. By knowing ‘what’ to skip, you can read a book faster while obtaining the essential information. Once you’ve read a few non-fiction books, you know the structure. Understanding the outline will help you to skip non-essential parts. For example, start by preview the whole book (you can also do this for rapports, blogposts, et cetera). Read the first few introductory paragraphs to grasp the message of the book. Next, read the subheading, titles, and subtitles. Then, read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. This method will help you to comprehend the text faster. This strategy will give you 40 percent of the vital information.

2. Direct your thoughts

One bad habit is daydreaming—we think about the weirdest things when we are reading. Our mind wanders off on a tangent. Daydreaming is something that everybody does—there is no point in stopping it. Instead: turn it into something that helps you with comprehension. Next time you catch your mind wander, direct your thoughts towards the subject you are reading about. Connect the words you are reading with real life experiences. For instance, when you are reading about ways to deal with stress, think of a period when you had a lot of stress. In this way, you allow your brain to create connections, which will make it easier to remember.

3. Stop subvocalizing while you read

When we read, we mouth along to the words. At this rate, you read 150 words per minute, which is the same as your talking speed. Research shows that your brain can process up to 400 words per minute. By stopping the habit of mouthing the words, you can increase the number of words you process by 200%! One easy trick to stop subvocalizing is to focus on keywords and to skip the rest. Try to put this in practice and catch yourself when you are mouthing the words you are reading.

4. Set a goal

Set a goal for what kind of information you want to walk away with after reading something. Ask yourself: Why am I reading this? Why do I need this information? How can I use it? If you are in college and you have an exam on a subject: focus on the parts that the lectures covered. When you are reading a book on exercising, and you want to walk away with a fitness routine: read the parts that include the different fitness routines. You don’t have to discard the rest, but at least you can prioritize your reading. Also, if you do not know exactly why you are reading something, DON’T!

5. Capture the most important information

It is true that we don’t have to remember everything, but at the same time, we want to remember the important matters. That’s why we need a retrieval system that will help us to retrieve the information when we need it. See it as a backup of your brain. Setting up a retrieval system is very personal—some people prefer writing down knowledge in their notebook, others prefer taking pictures. Do whatever works best for you. For example, I prefer Evernote because it works similar to how our brain works. When I read a book or article, I highlight the most important things. When I finish a book, I go back to my highlights and take pictures with Evernote. When I need to retrieve the information I can use Evernote’s search function, which also recognizes text from images. Having a retrieval system also takes away the pressure of memorizing information.

Conclusion

Most people don’t think of reading as fun. However, gaining knowledge is essential for your growth. It is true that you can learn in different ways, and you should focus on ‘how’ you learn best (video, audio, text). But the truth is that we cannot completely avoid reading. So make it easier for yourself to learn things faster. Finally, take a break every 30 minutes. Research shows that the human brain can only focus on one task for a short amount of time. Give yourself a break from reading and try to read every day. If you keep it up, you’ll be substantially smarter within no time.

 

 

Thanks For Reading!

 

I’m Darius Foroux—an entrepreneur, author, and podcaster.

I publish weekly articles on overcoming procrastination, improving productivity, and achieving more. Never want to miss an article?

Hop on my newsletter below: