It's resolution season, and I have a lot of friends signing up to do more: drink more water, work out more often, get more sleep, read more books--you name it. I have just one resolution this year: say no to more and do less.
Last year, I took on a new role, so I said "yes" to as much as possible. In doing so, I had a lot more on my calendar but ended most of my days feeling behind on...pretty much everything. I prioritized what other people needed over what was important to me, and in doing so zapped my energy levels. My days were full, but not with the things that mattered most to me, and it felt like a roller coaster ride I couldn't quite figure out how to exit.
Turns out, the core of the issue was feeling guilt over saying no. But the glorification of business shouldn't dictate your schedule--your values and priorities should. Here are three reasons to consider a less not more philosophy in 2018:
1. You'll be more productive.
A study of some of the world's top musicians showed that many of them practiced just 90 minutes per day. The key to their success wasn't more work; it was focused periods of deliberate work. The classic mindset is that busier schedules mean you get more done, but research shows the opposite is true--the more you can do fewer things, better, your craft will improve, regardless of whether you're a musician, a manager, or both.
Spending less time on things where you don't create impact gives you significantly more time and energy to focus on what you're best at.
2. You'll be happier.
Studies of children show that spending unstructured time outside as part of their day delivered improved social outcomes, among other results. Anecdotally, think about the last time you had a free afternoon, free morning, or free evening to enjoy a cup of tea, watch your favorite show, or just think and write.
Chances are, your brain and your body got a chance to recharge, and you were a better partner, friend, sister, daughter, or manager as a result. Fewer commitments means more time to connect with people who matter to you most, and that's a winning recipe for a happier 2018.
3. You'll be a better leader.
Your team takes its cues from leadership on what matters, what doesn't, and how you structure your schedule and priorities. Last year, in a survey to our team, someone was kind enough to share the feedback that my over-caffeinated days made them feel like they had to be busy all the time.
Over this holiday season, I took a full two weeks off. In doing so, I set the tone for my team that time to do less is not just welcome but encouraged. Giving your team permission to say no has an uplifting effect on team morale and performance.
So this year, I'm saying no to more coffee chats, no to more podcasts, and no to more commitments that sound appealing to others but don't fit my style, schedule, or approach. It's painful in practice (and I'm sure has ruffled a few feathers) but my calendar is more full with things that I really care about than commitments I made based on expectations from others.
What can you say no to in 2018? Who can help you stay accountable to that goal? What percentage of your calendar is compromised of things that deflate you rather than inspire you?
Give some thought to those questions and have the courage to start canceling or pushing back on a few meetings--just as with anything else, the practice of saying no eventually gets a whole lot easier, as does managing your calendar and commitments.