Saying "no"

I wrote this post a couple of years ago. I think I even posted it here for a short time, then decided to remove it due to the potential bad connotation in regards to the projects & clients of my former team - even though it was not related.

Still, today, Bojan reminded me of it by posting a post with a similar topic.

So, I decided to find the post, and post it.

In my personal opinion, there is nothing as important when it comes to productivity as saying no. For most people to consider themselves productive, they need to get things done. And usually, when there are no distractions, it’s so much easier to get them done.

Last week, our office took a collective leave of absence. [Note: the time in question is around May Day] A few holidays here, a few days off there, it was an easy decision. Due to tight deadlines though, a coworker and I decided to keep on working. And you know what? We did a lot!

So when the new week started, all the coworkers came back, and the first day passed, I took a long hard look at why we got so much more done the previous week. It was easy – we had no distractions. There were no coworkers singing, or whistling, there were no questions or interrupts in the middle of our thinking process. Just us, and the code we were writing.

But soon enough, the holidays passed, and while our colleagues were not at work, our clients and prospects were. A question here, a request for proposal there, and you’re back to writing email instead of code.

So for one project, I basically said ‘no’. Well, in all honesty, I explained why not, and that at a later time it would be possible, but I said no. And it felt great.

Just say no.

Are you too busy for that non-productive meeting with your coworkers? Say no. Stick with your plan and perform the tasks you want to, not tasks that are dictated by others.

If you’re a freelancer it’s ever more important to be able to reject potential clients. I realize you need to have clients, and projects, but keep in mind working on several projects at the same time means you will not get anything done.

It’s the same with tasks at work. If you are good at something, colleagues will increasingly come to you for advice and tips. There is no problem in that per se, but you have to be able to set boundaries. When you are busy on something you need a way of letting them know not to bug you. For me, that’s my in-ears. When I want to get in the zone, I put them on. They’re noise isolating so I don’t need to hear all the whistling and distractions from our open floor plan. And I don’t need to explicitly say “no” to questions that start with “Can you just…”.

A while ago I listened to an awesome talk by Scott Hanselman about productivity. He talks about a lot of awesome stuff.

One of the things he talks about is, that it is OK to drop the ball. He says that communication is fault tolerant. If you don’t respond to someone who emailed you immediately, they will email you again. Another time.

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