The great Eric Barker has another informative post up on his blog. The dilemma we all face is that saying “Yes” makes us happy, but we have to say “No” in order to stay focused and accomplish anything of note. So how does one do both? Eric cites a number of accomplished experts:
“So how do you say yes and no?
It all starts with “protected time” for your important work.
Make a few of your prime hours inviolate. Anything threatening them gets a “no.” Period.
Charlie Munger always kept one prime hour for his personal priorities.
You’re not that much of a time management ninja? No problem.
Focus on protected days instead of protected hours.
Adam Grant has days where the door is closed, the answer is no, and important work gets done.”
I’m certainly not as successful as Adam Grant, let alone Charlie Munger, but I think my technique for protecting my time offers more flexibility for the average person.
As I’ve written in the past, I use the Pomodoro method, and focus my attention and energy into 20-minute work sessions:
I’ve been Pomodoro-ing for over two years now, and the key benefit is that it makes me mindful of how I’m spending my time. Having a timer go off every 20 minutes is an easy way to make sure you don’t take a “5 minute” break, and get up from the couch 4 hours later after a “Chopped” marathon.
Protecting a day seems hard. Even an hour might be difficult, given how schedules shift. But 20 minutes? Anyone can protect 20 minutes.
And even in 20-minute chunks, I find I can get a lot of important work done.