Saying No

just_say_no.gifSince moving back to Jamaica from the U.S. I have had to learn the power of critical importance of saying no.

There is no magic to either geographic location, it’s just that the complete and total change of environment naturally leads one to create new time demands that are impossible to fulfill.  There is also no particular magic in the move from north to south, as the same thing happens when someone migrates in the opposite direction.

When I moved here to Kingston, I remember feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to fix in the environment.  The difference in poverty levels provides lots of daily, visible cues that lead the average person to want to do something to help.  It might be a child begging on the street, or a pothole that seems as if it could swallow up a whole car.

The newcomer naturally creates many small, mental decisions to “get involved and make a difference.”  In the course of a few weeks, he/she has committed more actions than can be possibly taken.  The problem is that there is no way that they can possibly fulfill all these mental decisions to help.

Eventually, one learns to “pick one’s battles” and not to try to solve every problem.  (Some get burnt out when they don’t learn this important habit.)

To be sure, something similar happened when I moved from Jamaica to live in the U.S.  As a student at a huge college campus in upstate New York, I remember being amazed by how much there was to do.

Unfortunately,  those who tried to do and see everything didn’t graduate, as it was critical to learn to say no in order to take a reasonable number of classes, and to spend enough time studying to pass them.

In 2Time terms, the skill of revoking time demands after they are made is called “Tossing” and it’s one of the 11 fundamentals of time management.

Decisions to do something are revoked upon further reflection, at some future time.   Good ideas are thrown out.  Well-meaning intentions are eliminated.  Items are removed the calendar as time demands that were once a good idea are eliminated.

This is an essential step to maintaining peace of mind, and far superior to continuing to keep alive those small and large commitments that can create a sense of guilt if they are kept around for too long.

What Time Management Really Is

sisterpeace.jpgIn an earlier post I explained that time really cannot be managed, even though we think that it can, and that we have the power to so.. “Time Management” is truly a misnomer.

The term is still widely used both here and in other places, as it’s just too clumsy to use a different word or phrase. In the 2Time way of thinking, I use the term, but I actually apply it in different ways.

In 2Time, “time management” means:

#1 – Peace of Mind Management
The primary goal of a time management system is the production of peace of mind.  Nothing is more important, and every change in a time management system is measured by its impact on this overall measure.   This is one the reasons why time management systems vary from one person to another.  what creates peace for me, might do the opposite for you.

#2 Productivity Management
Unfortunately, there is no peace of mind for working professionals unless they believe that they are being productive.  The problem they have is that there is no agreed-upon way of knowing that they are being as productive as they can be — it’s not as easy as measuring a physical characteristic, such as height and weight.

For knowledge professionals, I recommend the use of proxy measures as a way of tracking their productivity.

Proxy Measure #1: The number of time demands that fall through the cracks.  In other words, how many commitments failed to be completed because they were not properly managed?

Proxy Measure #2:  The number of appointments that are late in starting, or are missed altogether

Proxy Measure #3:  The number of items in a user’s email inbox

Proxy Measure #4;  The number of regrets experienced verbally per day that one “needs more time” or “should be better organized.”

These are simply tools that a professional can use to manage their productivity when they are used together.



eye.jpgI started using a strange word, awakeness, in an attempt to describe a quality that I have witnessed in the most productive people I have met.

I recently dug up the post from the blog where 2Time actually started – “Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle.”  Here is the article in full.

 Awakeness – the Key to Accomplishment

I had the privilege of leading a workshop today here in Trinidad at the TTAIFA conference – the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Insurance and Financial Agents.

The group was a wonderful one to speak and engage with, and as great a bunch of Trinis as I’ve every worked with.

The most exciting part of the preparation came when I ran into a roadblock while trying to describe a certain quality that I know is important to being productive. I am now calling it “awakeness,” and as a Jamaican – we are famous for inventing new words – I like the “sound” and vibe of it.

In a nutshell (which is just about all the work I’ve done on it so far) “awakeness” is defined as the quality of being present to the outcome of a task while one is engaged in it..

When someone is experiencing awakeness, there is a connected feeling that makes the activity flow, and sometimes allows it to feel easy. Yet, it’s more than “being in the flow”. The process of completing a task takes several important steps:

  1. Changing the definition of the task
  2. Making a decision to do the task
  3. Scheduling the task
  4. Choosing to start the task at the appointed time
  5. Completing the task
  6. Deciding on next steps once the task is complete

As you can imagine, having “awakeness” is important at each step of the way. Let’s take a simple task such as “doing the ironing.” Doing the ironing is a task that could be poorly executed at any of the 6 steps, resulting in the task either failing to be fully completed in some way.

When there is “awakeness” there is a powerful quality brought to each of the above steps. At each step of the way, there is a clarity of purpose that changes the entire task.

  1. The first step is about replacing how the task is expressed in writing and speaking, from “ironing the clothes.” The person doing the task would have to look to see why they are in fact doing the task e.g. it might be a real part of a goal of “providing my children a secure and safe environment in which to grow.” The task could be re-expressed as “ironing for security, safety and looking clean and fresh.” This re-expression can help to bring an awakened frame of mind to the activity that is not there when it’s just about plain “ironing” which seems to be something that just needs to be endured.
  2. Making a decision to do the task at a specific moment in time is easier to do when there is “awakeness” simply because a deeper purpose has been engaged and activated.
  3. Putting the activity into our calendars at a time that is realistic is also easier to do with “awakeness”.
  4. Choosing to do the task at the appointed time, even when we are busy, is easier to do when the appointed time comes and we are awakened. If we are watching television and the time comes to do the task, it would be easier to turn it off and see about our children’s “safety and security” than it would be to watch the rest of the episode of “Days of Our Lives”.
  5. Seeing the task through to the very last sock and t-shirt, and avoiding interruptions are all about being awake during the task. The hard job that we have to do while ironing is to prevent ourselves from unconsciously falling out of “awakeness” into the kind of absent-mindedness that allows us sometimes to drive for miles to a destination and wonder what route we just took to get there.
  6. When we are in a state of “awakeness,” realizing that there are next steps is natural. When we are just ironing and nothing else, then the end of the task comes as a respite, and the tendency is to get the mind out of the boring task at hand and back to Days of Our Lives (recorded on our DVD-RW). On the other hand, when it’s about “our children’s safety and security,” it’s easier to see that it might be a good idea to put the clothes away now, and to schedule some more time to buy a good quality iron that would do a better job. The next steps are easier to see, and to start a new six step process when we are “awake,” because the actions are merely a continuation of the deeper commitment.

The point here is that the steps are, by themselves, not the point. There are some training programs and time management systems which try to be prescriptive about what happens at each of these stages, down to the kind of language that is used to re-express the task.

They all miss the point, however.

When we are “awake” the right things to do naturally present themselves.  By contrast, when we are asleep at the wheel, then no amount of detailed instructions will compensate for a lack of “awakeness.”

Why is this all important?

Well, we human beings need to be protected from ourselves.

On the first of the year, a part of us gets inspired to create plans to get fit and lost weight. By the end of the week, however, another part of us kicks in and takes control, and that’s the end of the plan until the start of the next year. The same happens with respect to other plans that we make, in our attempts to “Have the Lives that We Most Want.” The part of us that creates these plans does need assistance to make it through tough times , and this assistance comes most easily from our level of “awakeness.”

To put it another way, when we don’t have awakeness, then our mind will only allow us to accomplish simple tasks that require a single effort, and prevents us from accomplishing complex tasks like losing weight, that require sustained and consistent effort.