by Joynicole Martinez
Call them self-employed, entrepreneurs, leaders, or multi-tasking ninjas, women comprise a global community of almost 130 million individuals starting and running businesses. The women that make up this force are also successfully managing multiple roles, those erupting from their personal lives and demanding from their professional journey. Managing this multiplicity of responsibilities can leave women overwhelmed, exhausted, and eventually discouraged. Embracing these three rules can help you redeem and recapture time and get more done with less stress.
Rule 1 – Refuse to yield your 1st 15 minutes.
At the core of leadership is execution. All the strategies and theories in the world are meaningless if they are not executed. The 1st 15 minutes of each day should be dedicated to defining critical tasks. There are 3 activities in this 15 minutes:
- Meditate/Pray/Relax and envision for 5 minutes. You cannot plan a trip without knowing the destination. If you’d never been there, you would at least find a photo or imagine the destination.
- Identify the tasks you must complete to arrive at your ‘end of day’ destination. This should be no more than 3-4 items.
- Chunk it. Break each task into 3-4 steps. Deliberately and specifically identify any resources, people, emails or contacts you need to complete each step. Leadership expert Karima Mariama-Arthur explains chunking reduces a goal to its smallest components and streamlines the pathway to results.
The 1st 15 minutes is the most valuable time of your day. It is the roadmap for your day’s journey. Anything or anyone that seeks to distract you from that journey must be evaluated for inclusion. If you cannot include the request without sacrificing the journey – see rule 3.
Rule 2 – Recognize the Pruning Season.
Trainer of Champions, Latricia Chisholm, described her growth into an effective leader. She shared in a recent interview, “I realized that in the pursuit of my calling there was a defining moment… It happened when I committed to removing the dead weight in my life by clearing the clutter and combating resistance.”
The Pruning Season is a segment of days or weeks dedicated to identifying clutter and resistance to successful execution. As the physical changing of seasons is identified with certain characteristics (falling leaves, increased rainfall, warmer weather), it presents with a set of identifying patterns and features:
- Feeling disconnected or apathetic toward work,
- Lack of attention or inability to concentrate or remember,
- Experiencing exhaustion even after a night’s sleep,
- General sense of disillusion, frustration, and cynicism.
Consider the rose. It is best to prune just before the plant breaks out of dormancy and after the final spring frost. We prune just before it’s time to bloom and after the cold climate has broken. Those feelings of dormancy are ‘winter’ and the final frost – it is time to examine the bushes for anything that may prohibit healthy and well-formed growth.
Check for room to grow.
If there are relationships and responsibilities that have outlived their usefulness, are invading space you did not intend them to take, or are blocking positivity in your life and professional journey – clip it. This is a difficult yet critical step. You must not give energy to anything that prohibits focused growth and execution. The adage says, “you cannot get that time back.”
Cut off anything that is ‘sick.’
One of the ways we fail successfully (yes, you can do that) is to recognize when a project isn’t working and to let it go before it consumes resources we could put into a project that may be successful. Commit to delegating responsibilities, canceling unprofitable contracts, changing plans, and rewriting strategies.
Shape up for beauty.
Pruning is about designing the space and eliminating clutter in an environment so beauty can bloom. Organize, throw away old papers, remove physical clutter. These things distract our eyes and our focus. How often have you stopped in the middle of a task to “find” something or spent 30 valuable minutes trying to straighten up so you can get focused enough to work? Recapture that time in the Pruning Season so your best, most creative results can bloom.
Rule 3 – Practice the Art of No.
This is the simplest rule but it’s often difficult to make into a habit. High achievers often allow feelings of guilt to invade their thoughts when they use the dreaded two-letter word. The Art of No requires understanding when to say it, why you’re saying it, and how to say it.
When to say no. If the request does not fit with the plan for execution laid out in your 1st 15 minutes, you must consider saying no. Remember this: saying no does not mean you lack the desire to say yes. It simply indicates you have identified the day’s priorities and the request does not align or fit in.
Why “no?” Americans often use a misleading phrase, “I don’t have time to do ____.” Why is this misleading? Because the truth is that as we prioritize, we eliminate space and time for additional tasks. The truth is, “____ is not a priority now.” You can successfully practice the Art of No as you identify the things you’ve said yes to.
How do you say no? A tremendous barrier to using no is our fear of offending others, of appearing rude or insensitive, or being less than a “team player.”
Here are a few ways to say no respectfully:
My task list is quite full today. It looks like I can respond to/get to/add your request on ______. You should add detail to this response as the relationship requires.
Thank you for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I am unable to take on additional priorities right now. You may want to refer another person or provide an alternate solution with this response.
No, I cannot. In reality, there is nothing inherently disrespectful about the word no and the more you practice saying it, the more comfortable you will be using it to stay focused and recapture your time.
Joynicole Martinez is CEO of The Alchemist Agency – a management consulting firm specializing in building capacity of nonprofit and purpose-driven organizations and executives.