By Brendalyn King, Program Director at Zampella Group Inc.
Welcome to my first blog. As a coach and program director at Zampella Group, I serve our clients by cutting through the noise – all of those items distracting us from what matters most. In these posts, I look forward to distinguishing noise from what we actually care about as we navigate our daily lives.
First stop … all the noise around time management.
iCal. Google Calendar. Outlook. Sunrise. SaiSuke. Calendate. PlanBe. We have no shortage of options for calendar applications nowadays. Over the last decade we have grown to believe that such apps can actually manage much of our professional obligations and our personal lives.
Let’s begin with this question: Why do we bother to trust these apps to manage our promises and commitments?
When Memory No Longer Serves Us
When promises, agreements, and “Yes’s”, automatically fall out of our mouths, we need to catch them some place reliable. The only place that can reliably capture our WORLD and our WORD is our calendar, NOT our memory.
As we expand our leadership, take on new commitments, and respond to changing circumstances, the myth of memory will fail us every time. Relying on our memory leads to another harmful outcome: We are not present to the very moment when life is happening.
When items are left to our memory we navigate life without a full awareness of the life we are navigating. Effort is placed on remembering, or making sure we haven’t forgotten something. Worse yet, we are often not fully present for new commitments we’ve made that require our time, and then later must try to recall those details and agreements.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s just agree that engaging leadership is too important to leave commitments, agreements and promises to our memory.
When is Yes, really NO?
Before seeking out a new calendar or Googling new gadgets or apps, let us first explore the nature of the choosing that finds you relying on your calendar.
Managing our time has little to do with prying MORE in your calendar or managing your calendar BETTER. It is about asking yourself, “Do I need to say YES to everything that is asked of me?”
We support most of our clients, first, in discovering WHY they say YES to requests, are over-promising, or are automatically agreeing to commitments. Gadgets can help to organize tasks, allocate time, and can reveal our priorities and choices, but only WE can choose. And that takes courage!
For me, automatically saying “Yes” was an easy way to avoid thinking about what I was committing to. I avoided saying NO, or negotiating what I needed. Essentially, saying “Yes” and then dealing with the consequences was easier than engaging the important or difficult communication that might take a bit more courage and leadership.
So before focusing on new tricks or tips, I invite you to use some simple linguistic practices, designed to slow down your reflexive “Yes,” and to create some space for an authentic commitment.
#1: “Can you repeat yourself?” — When asked to do something … pause, and ask, “Can you say that again?” Repeating a request interrupts our automatic response. With this extra step we become mindful of what was asked and all it entails, rather than reacting and recovering later.
#2: “Details, please?” — After you pause, get the details: What is the date, time, and location pertaining to any action I must perform, and what is expected of me before, during and after? In our work we refer to these details as “Conditions of Satisfaction,” which represent those conditions necessary to producing an outcome. Not asking relevant questions before saying “YES” undermines our intentions to show up ready to go and prepared to win.
#3: “Let me get back to you on this.” — With this small script you can avoid a lot of self-imposed pressure to respond in the moment. When I learned to say this, I experienced a great deal more freedom to choose well. Important note: you MUST follow up with your final answer. Do not leave someone hanging or guessing, which erodes trust.
#4 “No.” — Consider that saying NO – just like saying YES – is a commitment. You can say “NO” without sounding rude and pushy. The freedom behind “NO” grants you the space and time to say “Yes” to other items in your life with greater confidence. As Warren Buffet says, “You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
Now, it is your turn. Choose one of the 4 scripts to interrupt your automatic YES, and practice it this week.
How we choose offers us the possibility of representing who we are as our best self. I will devote future blogs on how to tap into that best self with practices that support and sustain it.
Brendalyn King serves as Program Director at Zampella Group, leading all aspects of program development and delivery.
As an educator and leadership coach, Brendalyn’s areas of specialty include increasing individual productivity and performance as well as employing generative language to align purpose and meaning.