What Will You Say No to in 2019?





Whether it’s a notification on your phone, an email on your laptop or yet another meeting invitation, life is flying at you at warp speed. Information hurtles toward us, and all the constant notifications can make it difficult not to be reactive. Add the barrage of business challenges  — digital transformation, cybersecurity, customer experience, re-orgs, Agile transformations — and it’s clearly time to work in a more effective (and sustainable) way.

So, with all the noise and demands, how can you focus your time and resources to successfully deliver meaningful outcomes for yourself, your team and your company in 2019? It’s not easy, but it is possible.

Even for those with strategic plans in place, now’s the time to take a fresh look at where you want to go and what will actually get you there — and what you want your experience during that journey to be. Here’s how.

1. Envision and define the desired future state.
Before you chart a course, you need to know your destination. Where do you want to see yourself and your organization in December 2019? What specific outcomes do you want to create? Think about measurable goals — revenue, employees, clients — as well as qualitative objectives like feelings (“less stressed,” “happier,” “purposeful,” etc.). The future state should be both visionary (to engage team members and yourself) and clearly articulated (to enable everyone to effectively align with it).

2. Focus. Be bold. And prepare to say NO.
Though the world would have you do it all, you can’t do everything. You need to be selective and specific. What three to five things do you need to happen to get where you want to go?

Now, look again at those three to five priorities. Ask yourself: Is this reasonable (while still providing you with enough room to stretch)? Do you have the pieces required to make this vision happen? Don’t be afraid to be ruthless as you determine what to add or remove from the final equation to make things happen.

And then, get ready to say no.

3. Stay focused on your priorities, and say NO.

When the pressure is on and we’re moving quickly, we often lose sight of our priorities and say yes to too many things. Without pausing to reflect, it’s hard to resist the intense pressure to keep adding tasks to our personal and professional to-do lists — gradually, but surely, leading us away from achieving our goals.

One of the hardest things in life and business is saying no. Yet learning to consistently say no to anything not aligned with your priorities may be the most important action you can take to create what you want.

Decide now what you’re going to say no to in 2019. Maybe it’s no to checking email after-hours or to meetings that aren’t critical to achieving your 2019 outcome. Whatever you decide, be clear and definitive about what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do. Then, use these guardrails daily to guide your decision-making throughout the year.

4. Learn to renegotiate.

The world is changing fast, and the plan you have in place might need to change — especially after you’ve given it further thought. Having integrity means doing what you say you’ll do and having proactive, honest conversations when changes are necessary. So, if you’ve made commitments that you now think need to change, have those discussions to renegotiate your priorities.

You might need to tell your boss you have concerns. Explain what you plan to drop or deprioritize and why — clearly detailing the potential risks and compensating benefits associated with your proposed new priorities.

Help stakeholders, particularly those who may not be getting things they want in this reprioritization process, understand how the proposed changes will help you deliver more effectively on other shared priorities.

5. Establish a follow-up plan to stay on track.

Once you have a new plan, how will you check in to make sure you’re staying on track? It’s important to create a plan for your plan. Take time regularly (monthly or quarterly) to revisit what you said was important and what you said you’d say no to: Are you doing (or not doing) those things? Are there new factors that justify re-evaluation and possible reprioritization?

With the speed of change and innovation today, unquestioningly staying the course may lead you astray.

Bottom Line: Get clear, get started, stay focused and keep saying no to non-essentials.

No organization or individual can do everything that needs to be done. And attempting it threatens meaningful outcomes in the areas that truly matter to your business and your life.

Remember: You have only 365 days in the year and what you choose to do — and not do — each day matters. Set your priorities and establish the discipline to stay focused on them. Equally important, make and keep your commitment to just say no to what does not align with your priorities and desired outcomes for 2019.

Try it. Just saying no may prove to be the game changer you need in 2019 to effectively manage the onslaught of demands and maximize your success — and peace of mind.  

Kirsten Kuhlmann CEO & President