Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Value of Saying NO

Do you realize how important the word "NO" is in our vocabulary? Do you find yourself resisting the word out of fear of looking bad, hurting feelings, or closing the door on something? Do you find yourself saying "YES" more often -- sometimes to people and activities that may or may not fit your larger vision for what you want to be/do in your life or career?

I talk a lot about the importance of creating boundaries in our lives -- with people, activities, commitments -- by saying "NO" so that we can allocate the time, energy, and space to focus on what we really want to be saying "YES" to. This is not coming out of should; rather it coming out of honoring and investing in our vision, values, and mission. My previous post on why it's crucial to create a business plan applies here as well -- not only for business, but for life planning.

Saying "NO" is a source of power and an access to effectiveness. When we choose to close the door on something, we are opening up space for that which is a better fit for what we are creating and committed to. It may be difficult to use that little word in the beginning, but with practice, it becomes easier...and obvious when it's necessary and appropriate.

I had the pleasure of giving a talk on this important topic a few weeks ago at Ines Kinchen's weekly networking group at Flourish Studios in Chicago. I wrote a post last year on "Declaring 'Yes' and 'No'" and am happy to share the content of my talk here.

Consider the following questions:
  • What are the consequences of saying "YES"?
  • What is stopping you from saying "NO"?
  • How is this impacting your available time and energy? …your business? ...your relationships?
Here are some thoughts that are important when considering why/when to say "NO":
  • Make self-ishness a priority to powerfully manage where your time and energy go -- By filling your cup first, you will know how much you have available to give... without resentment, overwhelm, and overextending yourself.
  • Identify and align with your values -- Be certain that you are choosing from a place that is in alignment with what you believe in, stand for, and aspire to.
  • Get clear about what you want and don’t want -- When choosing NO or YES, be sure you are clear about what fits and doesn't fit with your vision, values, and mission for your life and business.
  • Carefully choose your commitments -- If you want to be effective and powerful in all relationships and activities, you must be discerning about what you say "YES" to. If you want to maintain your integrity and a high level of excellence, you may have to say "NO" sometimes so you have the capacity to fulfill upon everything you commit to.
  • Create boundaries in your relationships -- Identify who you want in your life, and what you are willing and able to give to your personal, professional, and romantic relationships.
  • Choose YES -- Don't trap yourself in "should" or "have to." The last thing you need is to feel resentful or obligated. If you feel compelled to say "YES," choose it and commit to it. If you are not going into the relationship or activity willingly and generously, then just say "NO." It won't serve you or anyone to be doing anything you begrudgingly said "YES" to.
Here is a short exercise to help you declare NO and YES to yourself:
  1. Select one area life where you are not satisfied.
  2. Write a complaint or challenge that you believe is underlying your feelings of dissatisfaction. Be specific.
  3. Identify what you want instead. Be specific.
  4. Write a NO statement as a declaration to eliminate what you don’t want in your life.
  5. Write a YES statement as a declaration to support what you really want in your life.
  6. Define a structure that will support you in honoring your NO and YES declarations. It's one thing to make a declaration, but another to design a structure to make sure you can put it into practice.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for any area that you’d like to have a breakthrough in honoring your time, energy, or focus.
  1. Area of Life: Career
  2. Complaint/Challenge: My schedule is always packed and I’m constantly running around. I have little reserve time and energy for focusing on the ideas that will make my business really soar.
  3. What I really want is: time to focus on following up and connecting with all the people I meet.
  4. I declare I’m saying "NO" to: giving my time and energy away by over-committing.
  5. I declare I’m saying "YES" to: honoring my values and goals by practicing saying "NO."
  6. Structure: For a week, I will wait at least 30 minutes before committing to anything so that I have time to think about whether saying "YES" makes sense. (Say: “Let me check my schedule and get back to you in 30 minutes.”)
Be vigilant about saying "NO" -- recognizing that it is your key to power, effectiveness, and excellence. Find ways to practice (perhaps by starting small), so you can gradually increase your comfort with NO. By consciously choosing what, where, and with whom you involve yourself, you will have more time and energy to focus on what is most important to your life and career.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The 6 Cs: The Purpose of a Business Plan

The business plan is an essential tool, not only for the business owner to design the road map for the organization, but for the individual to articulate his or her career path. It need not be a 100-page document with all the "right" words to be effective. In fact, it's better if you keep it clear and concise -- as an evolving representation of your DNA (vision, mission, values) and your plan for moving forward.

This weekend, I will be in Denver co-leading a workshop at the HOW Design Conference called, Chaos to Clarity: Creating Your One-Page Business Plan. I am partnering with Creative Coach RaShelle Roberts for the workshop, and will be joining her team at inVision -- providing coaching to creative professionals. And will of course continue servicing my clients through my own firm, Judah S. Kurtz | Coaching & Consulting.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the content of our workshop. While it is geared toward the design community, this material is relevant for any person -- for both your career and for the design of your business.

The Six Cs: The Purpose of a Business Plan

CLARIFY – To clarify your vision for what you want to create and why. As design professionals, you may just be happy being paid to do what you love. However, it’s important to take this a step further and create a vision for where you want to take your career. Whether you are a business leader, work within a firm, or operate independently, take the time to get clear about where you envision you and your business going. Rather than pushing, you’ll feel yourself being pulled toward your vision.
  • Are you where you’d like to be?
  • Have you defined your vision and mission?
CONNECT – To connect to the values you want to live and breathe as an organization. Feeling solid about what’s important to you and how you want to live out your vision will give you more motivation than you could imagine. When you know what you stand for, your mission will be self-evident. And you’ll know on a deep level when you are on or off your “right path.”
  • Have you taken the time to clarify your values?
  • Are you honoring what’s important to you?
CHART – To chart a map for how you are going to get there. The bottom line is most of you are extremely visual. Designing a plan and writing the important milestones down makes it so much easier to SEE the way. You will also be able to more easily anticipate pitfalls and road blocks that might get in your way as you move yourself from point A to point B. Once you have it all laid out in front of you, you may be able to devise a scenic route or a couple of side excursions to make the trip that much more enjoyable.
  • Do you know what you want to accomplish?
  • Do you know what gets in your way?
CREATE – To create structures that will support you along the journey. Even if you are not a big fan of structure, you can’t deny that organizing your time, energy, and resources makes things so much easier. And your clients love you for it. If you want your vision to happen and your plan to work out, you have to get your ducks in a row. Design systems that work, get the tools you need, and partner with people you can rely on, and set yourself up to win. You may find that when you have structures in place, you have more space and freedom to focus on what you love doing.
  • Do you know what you need to be successful?
  • Have you identified which habits no longer serve you?
COMMUNICATE – To communicate to others the purpose and plan so that they can get on-board. Ultimately, your business is about communication. Your work conveys a message – an image, a brand, an identity. So must your business plan. You want people to get who and what you are about. Clearly articulate your vision, values, mission, and map in a compelling way to generate buy-in, energy, and excitement.
  • Do you know who to share your business plan with?
  • Are you willing to be honest with the people that matter?
COMMIT – To commit to yourself and gain commitment from everyone who has a stake in your success. It starts with you. If you want others to believe in you, you have to believe in you. Get clear about who you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. Commit to making it happen, follow your plan, and share what you are up to. Your consistency, dedication, and enthusiasm will attract more business than you know what to do with.
  • Do you understand the importance of commitment?
  • Are you willing to do what it takes to make your business really thrive?
The Shameless Plug

I look forward to discussing this rich topic with you further. I'm also happy to work with you individually on defining your vision, mission, values, milestones/goals, and plan for action -- as part of your planning process for your career and/or business. Feel free to contact me for a FREE 30 minute consultation to discuss what you are creating, answer your questions, and see if we are a fit.