Recent neurological research has shown that multi-tasking actually impedes brain function and decreases personal effectiveness. Indeed, sometimes the best way to keep up with, and even get ahead in, today’s fast-paced world is to say no. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, Tony Schwartz asserts that “saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times.”
Why is saying no so important to personal effectiveness?
According to Schwartz, “It is only when we pause – when we say no to the next urgent demand or seductive source of instant gratification – that we give ourselves the space to reflect on, metabolize, assess, and make sense of what we’ve just experienced. Taking time also allows us to collect ourselves, refuel and renew, and make conscious course corrections that ultimately save us time when we plunge back into the fray.”
Basically, saying no can increase personal effectiveness, boost creativity, improve energy and interest, and even help create work-life balance. If this is the career development boost you’ve been looking for in 2012, Schwartz offers a few easy tips to get started:
1. Schedule important things on your calendar.
Instead of getting constantly snowed under by urgent emails or last-minute demands, decide what your priorities are and write them down. Commit yourself to regular exercise, periodic brainstorming sessions, and other essential tasks in advance. Choose a set block of time each day to deal with urgent matters, and don’t let them overshadow your other priorities, especially at the expense of your personal effectiveness or work-life balance.
2. Take stock at the end of each day.
Take time at the end of each work day to review your day’s progress, clear your head and strategize a plan for accomplishing tomorrow’s priorities effectively. Decide what you can take on as well as what needs to be delegated or postponed. When you arrive in the morning, you can be fresh and ready for action.
3. Do your hardest task first thing.
Many people operate at maximum personal effectiveness first thing in the morning. If this is true for you, plan to get your most daunting or time-consuming task out of your way first thing, and just say no to other distractions.
4. Schedule breaks to periodically leave your desk.
Neurologists have found that the human brain operates more effectively when tasks are differentiated. With this in mind, it is smart to shift gears between each thing you accomplish in order to maximize your effectiveness. Physically getting up from your workspace can be a good way to do this – as long as you don’t find more distractions along the way!