I was reading a blog post at fourhourworkweek.com talking about why creative people should say “no” more often. The author, Kevin Ashton, shared several rejections to the invitation a researcher sent to creative people because he was studying the creative process. The one that stuck with me was from Peter Drucker:
One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours–productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.
For a several years I fancied myself a leader, and a decent one at that. But my true journey as a leader did not start until the day I realized that, in spite of all my education and skill at problem solving, I was not leading because I was always pursuing someone else’s agenda. Sure, I had goals: I wanted to make lots of money so I could take care of my family; I wanted to be the best at something; I wanted to be loved and respected. Nice ideals, but vague and unfocused. Consequently, my plan was to find and solve problems. “Just tell me what problem you need solved and I will take care of it!” was my mantra. I didn’t realize I was surrendering my agenda to other people.
I had to figure out what I really wanted, then I had to start saying ‘no.’
Saying no is hard. By nature we want to help others. Further, most of our social training teaches us it is rude to decline to help someone in need. If someone is truly in need — really cannot take care of him/herself — then we should help. But there is a difference between someone truly wanting and someone wanting you to help with the community yard sale…or the Christmas Party Committee. Mind you, doing either of those activities because they will help you and your agenda is a reason to do them. But if there is nothing in it for you, then saying yes is only taking time away from the big things you are supposed to accomplish.
So, first, figure out your purpose. Next, figure out how to do it. Finally, consider others’ invitations to help them, but consider whether the time taken away from your goals is worth the price.
Why (and How) Creative People Need to Say “No” by Kevin Ashton at fourhourworkweek.com