Learn To Say NO And Boost Your Productivity By 30 %

Another long working day is coming to an end, however you again notice that almost half of your time has been wasted on interruptions and the work goals were not achieved. Instead of being happy to finish work and go home to have dinner with family and friends, a creepy feeling of frustration and anger sets deep in your soul. The deadlines are getting tight, and there is still so much to be done at work. How can you possibly speed up the things?

If this situation is familiar to you, there is a high chance that you belong to conscientious, easy-going and kind-hearted people who cannot say NO. This is the reason why your colleagues love your company and frequently ask you for help. In fact, it is your great advantage that you are conscientious, easy-going and kind-hearted – these traits serve as “people magnet” and can be of great use in business and career. However you shouldn’t underestimate that people tend to “overuse” your kindness. If you continue this way, most likely you won’t meet project deadlines or will need to spend weekends and nights to catch up with the tasks. Anyway, it is not the solution to your challenge as sitting up late and overworking does not increase your productivity and thus does not guarantee sustainable results.

Let’s dig deeper and take a look the root of the challenge: why couldn’t you do 40% of the tasks? Presuming you did a good planning job and the loss of productivity happened due to distractions. Your colleagues came to your office a couple of times or called you asking for a favour. You quickly gave them a helping hand and it cost you only 10% of your work time. Where did the rest of the time go?

Here is the secret: you probably were not aware of the Saw Blade Effect which robbed you of the rest 30% of time. Every single time your colleague enters the door or calls you asking for help, as well as when you click on email pop-up, check skype or WhatsApp, your thoughts wander in a different direction from the important work task. Although you are distracted for a few minutes or even seconds, your brain cannot immediately recapture your previous cognitive state. You need a few seconds, sometimes minutes, to focus and start working again. The more often you are disturbed, the more time you lose getting back to work. Usually the performance level rises slowly after an interruption, and it plunges steeply at the next one. That is why the curve looks like the saw blade.

Saw Blade Effect_Productivity Booster

As a rule, the Saw Blade Effect reduces your productivity by 30%. In order to increase productivity, you need to learn to say NO:

1. Say NO to your Hi-Tech distractions

Before dealing with an important task, deactivate all popups including email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Mute your mobile and work phone or ask your colleague to jump in for you on a random call for the next hour while you will be busy. Schedule regular call hours which do not coincide with your scheduled work on important tasks.

2. Say NO to your colleagues

Be creative and attach a note to your office door saying “Deadline today. Please don’t disturb” or whatever works better to persuade your colleagues that you shouldn’t be disturbed now. If someone barges into the room despite the note, kindly refuse helping him right now and draw his attention to the note. Learn to say no, it will be of benefit for you and your colleagues. Thus you will have more time to focus on your main tasks, and your colleagues will become independent achievers.

If it comes to the worst, lock your office door and don’t let anyone in until you are done with the task!

If you find it difficult to say NO, here is a quick exercise for you to practice:

Face the mirror and imagine your colleague asking you for help when you need to work on important task. Kindly and politely refuse your colleague and name a few advantages why it would be good for your colleague to ask someone else or do the task alone. For example:

Hi Peter, I am really sorry that I can’t help you today with fixing this IT bug. I need to meet the deadline with project Z. You know, I think you will save at least one hour of your time if you ask John to do it for you. He specializes on fixing bugs.

Mrs. Brown, can I recommend Dr. Walsh to you? He is a great Physician with an excellent reputation who just opened a new medical center around the corner. He can devote you much more time than I can due to the fact that our praxis is absolutely full.

Hi Jane, I’d really love to give you all this info, however it won’t serve you. It goes back to 2005 when the IT systems were much weaker than today. We’ve had a tremendous science leap since then. Well, you can compare it with moving from the Stone Age to Renaissance. In addition, it would take me several days to pull out the old files which you eventually can’t use for the new project. Even if you take over my tasks while I will be searching for this info, you don’t want to fly a dinosaur when the rest of the world is about to board a space shuttle.


3. Include a “sacred work hour” in your daily schedule

Schedule a 1-2 h slot every day to work on important tasks. Pick up the time when you have the highest concentration and the lowest interruption rate. Make it public so that everyone in the office knows that you are busy and shouldn’t be disturbed.

4. Include a “help hour” in your weekly schedule

Make an announcement that your colleagues are welcome to ask you for help at a specific time slot once or twice a week. Thus you will maintain the position of a helping person and a great colleague. At the same time, you will avoid many unnecessary interruptions during your productive time.

5. Barter when helping

If you are the only person who can help your colleague in a specific matter, and if you really want to help, however will need a lot of time for that, barter with your colleague. Ask him to take over some of your tasks.

By learning to say NO and applying the 5 tips mentioned above you will save hours of your valuable time and increase your productivity by at least 30%.




Do you find it difficult to say NO? How do you stop others from interrupting your work? Leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with you.