I almost always say “Yes” to anything that is asked. I’ve been guilty my whole life, especially when it comes to church. I figured that I was doing the Lord’s work so I should say “Yes” to anything and everything that was asked of me.
The problem was that I was beginning to resent the amount of work I was doing while others didn’t seem to be pulling their share. Then a wise Christian friend gave me some advice. He helped me understand that I was putting too much sweat into the projects and I was losing my joy doing them. He noted that while my effort was appreciated, I may not have been the best person doing the job. He also noted that by saying “Yes” to everything, I was likely preventing other people from participating. Good advice!
From that day forward I limited myself to two major projects at a time at church (and elsewhere). If I was asked to do more than that, my response was that I was happy to do it—which current project should I stop in order to take on the new project? Often the answer was to not stop what I was doing; they’ll find someone else to perform the task. Or if it made sense to take on the new job, the question became, “Who should take on the task I was doing in order for me to spend the time and energy on the new project?” Either answer was good. These questions often led to me doing the job that best suited me and also helped prepare other people to become more involved. Win, win.
Value Your Time and Energy
I read an article in Entrepreneur magazine by Jess Ekstrom titled “The 6 Questions I Ask Before I Say ‘Yes’ to Anything.” Here are the six questions:
1. What purpose does this serve?
If the answer is “to serve,” that’s the wrong answer. There should be purpose for what I do. Why am I doing it? Am I doing it because I believe the Lord is asking me? Am I doing it because I like to see myself as the “go-to” guy? After that talk with the wise friend, I began to think about the things I do and I began to think about why I’m doing things. When you’re young, your personal resources seem unlimited. They are not. Over a lifetime, you only have the personal resources to do a limited number of things. Make sure they count and there is a purpose for doing them.
2. Why am I afraid to say no?
I never wanted to offend people. If they asked me to do something and I said “No,” it felt like I was offending them. Then I began to analyze what happened if people said “Yes” but in the end didn’t do for me what they had said “Yes” to. I was very offended. Let your yes be yes and no be no…
3. What else could I be doing with this time?
What is your time worth? I spent about 30 years of my career working with leaders and small teams. Setting a price for my time was very difficult for me. Every time I set a fee for my work, I had this sinking feeling that I had set it too high. Would anyone be willing to pay that amount? It seemed like every time I went through that process, there was no hesitation on the client’s part.
4. Can I delegate this?
This is a tough one for individual contributors like me. After I retired, many people asked me if I had sold my business. I told them there was nothing to sell. My clients bought me, not some company. Most of this work couldn’t be delegated.
5. What is stealing my energy?
This is an interesting one for me. I traveled all over the world and always seemed to have plenty of energy. But was there anything that seemed to be stealing my energy? As I think about it there were two sources:
- The title of this blog. Saying “Yes” to too many things sapped my energy.
- The second one I had to learn. When I tried to do everything the business required. Once I realized that I could have someone else do a lot of the work that took time, I had some of my energy back. (Thank you, Chris.)
6. How do I refuel?
Refueling happens very simply for me. We own a cabin in the North Woods of Michigan. Once I’m there for a few days in the woods and near the water, I feel completely renewed and refueled. You’ve probably heard me talking about how important nature is. Even children who grew up in the “projects” on the south side of Chicago were happier and better adjusted if they simply had one tree outside their window. How do you refuel? This is an important question that helps us get through life better if we’ve taken enough time to understand that the thing is for us and if we use it regularly.
Do you pay attention to these six items in your life? To me the most important and overarching one is, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” The biblical versions (Matthew 5:37) go on to say that anything beyond this is of evil origin. Restrict your life to yes, no, and who else should be doing this other than me? Beyond that, it’s of evil origin.
This is great Ron! As I read it I thought of 2 quotes that I really appreciate: 1. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’”- Stephen Covey
2. Harry Chapin was a singer-songwriter and he had this to say about his grandfather.
My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost’s first two books of poetry, and he was looking at me and he said, “Harry, there’s two kinds of tired. There’s good tired and there’s bad tired.” He said, “Ironically enough, bad tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles; you lived other people’s days, other people’s agendas, other people’s dreams. And when it’s all over, there was very little you in there. And when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn; you don’t settle easy. Good tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost, but you don’t even have to tell yourself because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy, you sleep the sleep of the just and you say ‘take me away’”. He said, “Harry, all my life I wanted to be a painter and I painted; God, I would have loved to have been more successful, but I painted and I painted and I’m good tired and they can take me away.”