A while back, I was working with a client, who, like most entrepreneurs, had an overwhelming to-do list. I asked her to review this list and say "no" to at least one of every ten items. This also included the option to delegate tasks rather than doing them herself.
Imagine it: What would your work and personal life look like if you said “no” more often and were interrupted less? Here are some steps you can take this week to increase your productivity and help employees get more done each day:
Say 'no' more often. There is far more to accomplish daily than there is time to do it. Learning to say “no” allows you to maintain better control of your time. Saying no appropriately and effectively is not always easy. Here is a script to help smooth your learning curve:
"I understand what you are asking me for, and unfortunately I am completely booked this week. If you can wait, I’ll be able to look at it next week, or you can ask someone else to help you in the meantime."
How did it feel to read those words?
If the idea of saying “no” makes you too uncomfortable, try using this script just once each week. You decide when. Practicing saying no does not mean you have to shut your door and make yourself entirely unavailable to your team, friends or family. It simply means you become aware of what you commit to and choose wisely so you can avoid getting involved in something that pulls you away from important work.
Make the most of interruptions. Just for the next week, maximize interruptions rather than sprinkling them throughout your day. Constant interruptions scatter our focus all over the place. A recent Harvard Business Review report estimates individuals lose an average of 96 productive minutes each day to interruptions. That equals roughly eight hours per week or 32 hours each month. While you cannot eliminate all interruptions, you can practice maximizing them. Encourage your employees to do the same when it comes to interrupting you.
For the next five days try this: get the most from someone when you do interrupt them by saving up your questions. Experiment with “bunching” them together, rather than dealing with each as it comes up. One way to “bunch” effectively is to have index cards on your desk with one person’s name on each card. Every time you think of some non-urgent item to ask or tell one of these people, write it on their card. Then, a couple of times a day, you can ask them, “Do you have five minutes to go over some things with me?” This tactic alone has saved some clients an hour or two per day.
Say no more often and make the most of interruptions and you'll improve what you do everyday to make your best even better.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.