Notes: Staying ‘inside the boat’ and ‘saying no’

I am a huge fan of Change This manifesto and I read them often. Today I was reading about ‘managing your attention, not managing your time’ and I found these jewels:

Charlie Jones is a sportscaster who has covered several Olympic games in his long career. At the 1996 games in Atlanta, he was assigned to announce the rowing, canoe¬ing and kayaking events—a situation that left him less than thrilled, since it was broadcast at 7 a.m. and the venue was an hour’s drive from Atlanta.

What Jones discovered, however, was that it ended up being one the most memorable sporting events in his career, because he gained a chance to understand the mental workings of these Olympic athletes. Preparing for the broadcast, Jones interviewed the rowers and asked them what they would do in cases of rain, strong winds, or breaking an oar. The response was always the same: “That’s outside my boat.”

After hearing the same answer again and again, Jones realized that these Olympic athletes had a remarkable focus. In their attempt to win an Olympic medal, he wrote, “They were interested only in what they could control—and that was what was going on inside their boat.”

Everything else was beyond their control and not worth expending the mental energy and attention on—it would only distract them from their ultimate goal. Jones says that this single insight made the event “by far the best Olympics of my life.”

We all have moments when we need to redirect our efforts—or those of others—“inside the boat” to keep ourselves and our team focused. (We may even have to jump out of the boat a few times to rescue those who have gone overboard and drifted away.) We stay inside our boat by managing our attention instead of trying to manage time.

and this one (it is about the myths about saying ‘no’ and the right approaches)

Myth 1: If you say no, you’ll hurt people’s feelings. Reality: You have no control over another person’s feelings. If you’re honest in telling the person what your priorities are and why you have to say no, most of the time she will respect that. She would rather hear “Sorry, I can’t do it” up front rather than “I’m sorry, I didn’t get to it” later. Just tell the truth.

Myth 2: I cannot say no to my subordinates or my boss.

Reality: Actually, you can. You are ultimately responsible for achieving results, and if it’s clear that the activity your subordinates or supervisors are suggesting will keep you from accomplishing your priorities, you need to say no and be clear on why you are saying no. If you explain your priorities and they’re not in line with the priorities of your subordinates or your boss, something is out of sync.

Myth 3: If I say no to this person, I could irreparably damage the relationship.

Reality: If saying no could damage the relationship, your relationship is probably pretty toxic already. Relationships are damaged more by misunderstandings and unspoken perceptions than by disagreements. If you are open and honest, chances are you’ll be able to work through an issue of disagreement.


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