Boost Your Job Satisfaction and Productivity by Simply Saying “No!”

When you absolutely, positively have to get something done but are prevented from doing it by the press of multiple and varied duties, you must physically and mentally subtract yourself from the rest of the world until that obligation is completed. No distractions, no interruptions, no multitasking until you have cleared the deck and are sure that you have taken the time and given proper consideration to any decision that needs to be made — along with the possible outcomes. We came up with a technique for high-quality decision making that manifested from the following question: “When are you the most creative and productive?” We realized it was when overwhelming distress about competing, important work priorities drove us to duck into what we called “Quiet Time.”

Quiet Time — What Is It For?

Quiet Time serves to protect some of our rarest and most important resources: clarity, enlightenment, and peace of mind. Your life successes may very well depend on your ability to somehow manifest Quiet Time so that you can reap the benefit derived from decision making during focused concentration. That’s not to say that Quiet Time guarantees better decisions — you still have to do the work — but it creates an environment where good decisions can flourish.

It is as simple as this: within a high-quality Quiet Time environment, the odds are you will make high-quality decisions. Conversely, in a low-quality Quiet Time environment driven by chaos and pathos, it’s more likely that you’ll make low-quality decisions (i.e., mistakes) or decide to simply procrastinate.

The Quiet Time Upside/Downside Process

I became so dedicated to the concept I ended up referring to it as the Quiet Time Upside/Downside Process. The Quiet Time Upside/Downside Process has the following Big 5 steps for learning how to know when Quiet Time, as a solution for resolving confusion and for important decision-making purposes, is not just an option but a critical must.

The Process is how I conduct my self-interrogation and apply these 5 steps in making a particular decision.

How to Use the Risk-Cost Matrix

As I said in Step 1, the analysis begins by asking yourself whether the risk you’re taking and the downside potential loss is worth the discomfort you may feel from leaving your comfort zone and accepting a dramatic behavior change, capital investment, or even health risk.

To make this assessment, you can mentally place your decision making on a Risk/Cost Matrix where the X axis is the risk of being wrong about a decision, and the Y axis is the cost of being wrong.

Imagine you’re abroad, and you’d like to bring home a silk scarf to a friend — a friend whose taste in clothes is very different from your own. The risk is high that you will get it “wrong” — that were your friend there with you, they would have chosen a different design. However, the cost of that wrong decision is virtually zero. They will be glad you remembered them and will forgive your questionable taste as any good friend would.

If, on the other hand, you’re about to record fresh training videos for new-hires at work, the cost of doing it wrong would be very high — disappointed customers, lost revenue, the diminished confidence of your employees.

But the risk of you botching it is probably low because you’ve worked hard to gain expertise in your field. In neither case would you treat your decision or preparation lightly, but in neither would you need to create a Quiet Time hiatus before you bought the scarf or decided how to deliver the videotape lectures.

In life, there are many moments when, with the aid of the Upside/Downside Process, we realize that we’re making a complex and life-decision-making challenge.

By example, do you hire or fire? There are few things in your working life that are more momentous than that — you have power over someone else’s career, possibly their family’s happiness, their financial well-being — to say nothing of the best interests of your company. Both the risk and the costs are very high so, in the matrix, the closer your risk/reward ratio is to the solid white line, the greater the need for a Quiet Time hiatus.

Don’t Mistake Urgency for Clarity

But here’s the tricky thing. You don’t always see your Quiet Time needs coming. Sure, you know in the morning that you’re going to hire somebody that day, so you can plan to Quiet-Time your decision. (Yes, we use it as a verb.) But you take calls all day long without knowing what urgent matters are coming from the other end that may also need Quiet Time.

Consider your own versions of calls like these:

● “We had to close the line because our supplier ran out of materials, but if we switch material suppliers, we may put the first guy out of business.”

● “I just heard that our best salesman is about to get a different job offer.”

● “User Acceptance Testing just called, and they want to meet with us all weekend long.”

Obviously, the first thing you need is more information, but then you are going to be called upon to make a momentous decision. Are these other issues urgent enough to require Quiet Time?

Beware of mistaking urgency for clarity! We may feel matters are urgent when, in fact, what is needed is contemplation. If people are sitting there staring at you expectantly and waiting for your decision so they can get their work done, that’s a pretty powerful impetus for announcing a decision and looking decisive. We tend to think we will be admired if we act decisively. We worry we will look tentative or even weak if we say, “Thank you, now give me some time to think about this, and I’ll get back to you with my decision.”

But here’s a good thing to remember for such moments: uninformed decisiveness is dangerous; deliberateness, as long as it isn’t paralyzing, is an underrated virtue. There’s a sweet spot, so you need to cultivate your urgency/clarity communication antennae. You need to coach your Wants-to-Please self to listen to your Wants-to-Ponder self. Both are important team members!

Using the Quiet Time Quiz

There are, of course, situations that are completely obvious candidates for Quiet Time. Life decisions: do I marry this person? Stay in this marriage? Do I take this job? Should I resign? Do we let the kid back in the house if he relapses? Do we start this charitable organization?

If we humans were less complicated, in fact if we were nothing more than automatons, the complexities and the conflicts surrounding decision making might be a matter of data analysis, number crunching, statistics, and forecasting. However, human nature keeps us leaning towards our natural inclinations versus simply weighing the data.

For that reason, we developed the following Quiet Time Quiz designed to help you better understand whether or not you would be better off with the benefits of Quiet Time.

So please, do what we did and ask yourself the following questions:

If, by adding up the total of all your answers to the quiz, the sum is 10 or less, then you may need to use Quiet Time.

Quiet Time creates a high-quality environment for making important decisions in business and your personal life. By subtracting yourself from the world temporarily, you can engage in deep thought about these high-risk and high-cost decisions. To assess whether Quiet Time is needed, you can use tools like the Risk/Cost Matrix and the Quiet Time Quiz. To dive further into the work we do during critical Quiet Time, check out our article on Time Locking. Quiet Time has changed the lives of many for the better — and can do the same for you.

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