One of the exiting and astonishing things learnt from the most successful business people in the world, is their ability to focus. Their secret is though different than we would think. They are not focusing on what to do!
You get about 40 000 – 60 000 signal every single day. Your brain does on some level process them all. Every single signal is subconsciously evaluated and put in to one of 3 categories; threat, reward, indifferent. Threat ignites the protection protocol. Threat can be as concrete as a car being about to run you over. But it can also be something more complex as being afraid of someone stealing your meal. Reward can be very tangible too, someone giving you positive feedback or the taste of something in your mouth. Sometimes they are at play at the same time! I don’t know about you, but my mind sees a lot of interesting things in those signals. Interesting articles, discussions in the social media, friends to chat with just for filling up time and procrastinating some other stuff. Ending up in the situation, where I have too little time for all the things. And eventually ending up stealing time from sleep and the really important moments with the most important people. I am an introvert and have high empathy. Love searching for stuff in internet and books. Always ready to give a hand when someone needs my help. Well, actually when someone understands to ask for my help, whether they really need it or not.
When I put my mind on something, stuff gets done. I don’t have a problem in being focused and delivering. I do have a problem with saying “no”. The skill that the most successful people have and use. Be that Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet from the big names. I see the same in a lot of successful leaders in Finland too. And I’ve seen the my problem in tens of thousands of people, leaders who would want to get higher (and have the intelligence to do the job), entrepreneurs and students. It is hard to say no, because we might lose something (fear / reward) or because we want to be kind (empathy) and appreciated by other people. At the same time we say no all the time! Without even noticing it. Sometimes it is to the important people we live with. Sometimes it is the indifferent signal we get. So, we do know how to say no!
We know how, but we don’t do it. I have learnt to do it. It took a little time. The time learning to use no, was not the tough part. The tough part was in identifying my true behavior, accepting that it is not the best for me nor the important people in my life. And then acting on that. As I got through that process, accepting that I am not a perfect person, that I am driven by personality elements that are not giving the best possible results, the rest was easy. I could do, so can you. I used an emotional intelligence test to see, what am I when compared with other people. Finding my drivers was the starting point. Then I started to see, how that had impacted on my behavior. That required some time sitting next to my desk and writing down some events from my life. What happened, how did I react, what was the outcome, what is the outcome I would have wanted and how should I have behaved. Day after day I could see, that I was missing the “no”. I didn’t focus on the no, I focused on helping others. Which meant that I wasn’t able to the most valuable things to others nor to my self.
No, you don’t have to go to the extremes of Steve Jobs. Just think about, if you could free more time to the important things. What would that mean to you? The people who are important to you? Your career? Studies show, that at work we are productive only for about 60 % of the hour. That means, that you spending 8 hours at work, you really get done work for about 4 hours 48 minutes. Increasing that efficiency by 10 % is nothing but saying no to the non-productive distractions. 10 % takes you far ahead of others. And you still spend that 8 hours at work! Not more!
Mastering saying no is the way to focus. Your productivity improvement, improvements in your life, are not coming from doing things faster, doing more things. They are coming from learning to say “no”. You might now say “but I cannot control what other people are doing, I cannot stop them from disturbing me”. This is the first place to say no. That is a belief we have learnt to live with, but it is not true. As you train yourself, learn also the coaching way of dealing with people. That is the way to help others to help you. You get them to reduce the distraction they are delivering you to those, that are not distractions but real attention requiring issues. Which deserve your attention.
Learning is a process. To help you to succeed in learning to lead yourself to success, we have created a set of trainings. On emotional intelligence and coaching, as examples. If you would like to learn more, write me a personal email. I will answer you and help you to get started in building better future, for your career and you free time!
Your partner in making “no” to work for you, Kari I. Mattila, emotional intelligence advisor