Everything in life seems to be a conundrum. The things that seem most important to us - friends, family, relationships - often get the short end of our attention. We spend a good portion of every day fighting fires rather than thinking about the big picture and taking action on important topics. To paraphrase Marx (Karl, not Groucho) - Knowledge Workers of the world, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your distractions.
Ok, so I'm being a bit facetious. But what's wrong with a critical examination of the requests, proposals, and suggestions we receive each day that will pull our time away from doing the big picture, company changing things? As each of us become decision makers and leaders in our respective organizations, it's time we learned to say "no" without the guilt.
Speaking of conundrums, the first word a two year old learns to say is "no". They learn to say it frequently and emphatically. However, when we as leaders and managers need to say it, all too often we find ourselves saying "yes" instead. Why? Because we've been led to believe that being busy is tantamount to adding value and being important. Our culture and our business practices lead us to believe that if we are not busy, then we are not measuring up.
As managers we need to learn what's important and where to spend our time effectively. This means leaving time to think and to plan. Missing the ocassional meeting or declining an invitation to yet another committee may in the long term add more productivity and innovation to your daily work. But saying "no" can be hard - I know, I've managed people and been part of a large corporation. In an article written for just this purpose, Dr. Donald Wetmore listed 17 ways to say "no". See his article here. Now, this may not rank up there with "50 Ways to Leave your Lover", but learning to say "No" may just help you become more effective in what you do.