I used to think the busier I was, the better. There is, however, a difference between being busy and being productive. The lazy office worker standing around the water cooler is busy (at least he says he is). Successful entrepreneurs are productive, and they don’t have to spell it out for people. Productivity shows in their results.

There are inherent risks to saying yes to most requests. Recently I discovered the power of saying “no” to people. I don’t have to attend every meeting, sign up for every committee or answer every phone call. As I told people “No”, I noticed I was more productive, and they appreciated it. They were then freed up to find someone else who truly had time for the task. I found many requests fall into these categories:

  • Not important – People ask me for meetings…a lot. They want to meet for coffee and talk about community events, politics or just catch up. That’s nice, but it’s not increasing revenue or helping my bottomline. I occasionally schedule a lunch with close friends or my wife when she is on break. However, I carefully balance this with my weekly sales goals and marketing tactics. Rule No. 1: Focus on the important meetings or tasks
  • Not Valuable – I have had some people and organizations ask me to do free social media and mobile technology training for audiences who just have a passing interest in the subject. They would rather I speak to them instead of them reading a book on the subject. I need to build relationships that are going to last and help my business grow. I would like to help them, but I can’t be everywhere at once. Rule No. 2: Say yes to organizations where you see value
  • Not me – When people find out that I run a technology training company that focuses on mobile technology and social media, they think I can do everything. I have people call me to tell me they think their email was hacked. I even had one guy ask me about designing a website for him because I was a “techie who knows how to do those things.” Rule No. 3: Focus on your core set of skills and pass on the rest
  • Not Now – Sometimes the timing is just not right. You ay not have the money to hire a firm right now. Maybe you are too busy with one job to give the right amount of attention to a proposal. Let the prospect know now is not the right time, but MAYBE there is another date you could work with them. Rule No. 4: Find a way to “get to yes”
  • Not Ever – Some requests will conflict with your personal or professional values. There is no need for a long speech. Just let them know the request is something you are not interested in pursuing. Some entrepreneurs will just take any job when they are just starting out. The problem is when you begin compromising a little, it is easy to justify more in the future. Lay your foundation early on and stick to your principles. Rule No. 5: NEVER compromise your values

I used to wear my “I’m Busy” sign like a badge of honor. It wasn’t until I realized it was my albatross, that I chose to shed that anchor and open my productivity gates. Practice saying “No” three times today and see how much more you get done.

Scientifically Speaking, of course…