Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Saying YES to a New Commitment

“Resist the temptation to say yes too often.”

Everyone wants a part of your time. Even me.

The problem is we don't really understand the nature of time. And so we waste it.

We can learn to better harmonize our time across the things that we want. One of the ways to do that is to avoid things that are unproductive.

We need to learn that the most powerful productivity tool ever invented is simply the word “no.” And you can say no with grace. But how do we know when we should say yes and when we should say no?

In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done Peter Bregman offers a simple solution that can be easily implemented.

Ask yourself three simple questions before you accept any new commitment.

1. Am I the right person?
2. Is this the right time?
3. Do I have enough information?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then don't do it.

Pass it to someone else (the right person), schedule it for another time (the right time), or wait until you have the information you need ( either you or someone else needs to get it).

But you say … What if my boss asks me to do something that fails the test? In this case …

It’s not just okay— it’s useful— to push back or redirect so the work is completed productively. It’s not helpful to you, your boss, or your organization if you waste your time on the wrong work.

Trying to be helpful to everyone on everything is what puts us in a position of failure…

That’s the irony. We try to be so available because we want to be helpful. And yet being overwhelmed with tasks—especially those we consider to be a waste of our time— is exactly what will make us unhelpful.

As for those pesky meetings. Just say No.

When we get a meeting request that doesn’t pass the test, we should decline. When we’re cc’d on an email that doesn’t pass the test, we need to ask the sender to remove us from the list before we get caught up in the flurry of REPLY ALL responses. And a fifty-page presentation needs to pass the test before we read it (and even then, it’s worth an email asking which are the critical pages to review).

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done is worth reading in its entirety.