Simplify Your "Yes" & "No"
We recently took a road trip across Texas to New Mexico. With a few key sights scheduled and rooms booked, we set off with adventure and memory-making as our priority. This allowed us to say “yes” to cool BBQ places along the way and choose the scenic route.
However, later in the week, our son got food poisoning. Clearly, our priority changed, and so did our “yes.” Adventure took a backseat. When driving over a mountain and discovering snow, it was easy to say “no” to stopping and playing in it. Our kid needed to get to the hotel as soon as possible. Instead of a spontaneous playtime in the snow, we snapped pics out the window and savored the views as they slid past.
We’ve all been there. We have a perfectly curated plan for the day. Our schedule is full, and we know what important tasks must be done. However, in the middle of the day, an urgent and unexpected item pops up. A decision must be made quickly. At that moment, the beautiful plan slides away, and we are left weighing out our choices. It gets tricky when urgency trumps importance.
Recently as I talked to a coaching client, we weighed out how important it is to say “no” to even urgent tasks. Learning to discern between urgent (needs attention immediately) from important (of great value), can make the difference in our ability to make progress and stay on task. Mentally, this can be hard to do because we feel the weight of urgency, and if we are honest, like the distraction from our other work.
So how do we wisely clarify our “yes” and “no” when urgency presses in on important tasks?
First, remember that there are two sides to every decision.
On one side when you say “no,” you are declining to engage in a task, appointment, or relationship. For example, when you say “no” to having coffee with a friend, you may feel discouraged. Work has been demanding and you miss time to socialize. You may experience loss attached to the “no.” You may feel the disappointment of the person you are declining. All of this presses in to make saying “no” incredibly difficult.
However, you are creating space to say “yes” to an important priority in your life. You are saying “yes” to creating space in your schedule for a previous commitment, a project deadline, or needed white space to rest. Every “no” has an implied “yes.” What is yours?
My family loves a snowy mountain, especially an unexpected one. Leaving the desert scrub of southern New Mexico to discover the lush, snowy slopes of its mountains delighted our hearts. On any other day, parking the car and hopping out to throw snowballs would be an easy “yes.” However, a sick kid in the backseat needed rest. His health was both urgent and important.
Because the priority was clear, the “no” was easier to execute. On our road trip, that priority was our son. In our daily life as we clarify our priorities, we can move forward in our decision-making with confidence. Like guardrails on the highway, clear priorities allow us to see the path in front of us and cruise ahead.
Second, what’s your priority?
I love to make lists. From To-Do’s to groceries, you can find a directory of my life all over the house. On scraps of paper to Trello boards, I index my days. While this can be a life-saver, it can also be a distraction.
Recently, I had a spell of weeks where I was super productive. All my lists were getting checkmarks galore. Yet, at the end of the day, I still felt behind and restless. What gives?
As I looked at all of the hyper-organized lists and productivity, I realized that I was not making progress on the projects and relationships that mattered the most to me. Yes, I was busy. However, my priorities needed to be reevaluated.
A priority is a matter of importance. They indicate what is most valuable to you. How you spend your time and use your resources is an indicator of your priorities. However, if you are like me, it’s possible that your calendar is bossing you around, and it does not accurately reflect your core values.
When we are clear on what is most important to us, our tasks and goals for the day have a filter. Our productivity gains focus. For me, this was a game-changer. I took all my lists, time to pray, and a little self-reflection. The result was a streamlined plan of action filtered through my core values. Now at the end of the day, I may have less boxes checked, but I have confidence that the work completed and the relationships invested in mattered.
It's time to simplify.
If you would like to get a handle on your lists, take time to evaluate your relationships, schedule, dreams, and interests. You have a limited capacity. How do you want to steward your time and resources?
Use these reflection questions to create a filter for your decision-making.
- How has God designed me? (look at interests, gifts, talents, experience)
- What activities and relationships bring me joy and are life-giving?
- In what areas of my life am I stuck or discouraged?
- If I could curate the perfect workday, what would it look like?
- If I could curate the perfect rest day, what would it look like?
Use these to help make the decision.
- In my decision-making, what “yes” does this “no” make room for?
- What feelings are hindering you from making a clear decision?
- Is love or fear motivating this decision?
- Based on what God is doing in my life right now and the wisdom He has given me today, does “yes” or “no” more clearly align?
- Am I choosing momentary practicality or long-term benefits?
Did I just make another list? Yes, I did. I hope that these questions help you get clear on what matters the most so that you can navigate your day with grace and wisdom. Want help with this process? I’d love to chat. You can schedule a free 20-minute call with me here.
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