A recent HBR Blog by Ed Batista, entitled "The Most Productive People Know Who to Ignore" got me thinking about a leading cause of the stress we encounter every day: getting stuck between saying NO in order to say Yes.
Most productive leaders have some form of To Do system - - a way to keep track of what they intend to do. It exists in the realm of discretionary time, where we get to decide what and when to do what we choose.
Real life doesn't respect our discretionary time. It brings a constant stream of interruptions via email, text, phone calls, flat tires, flight delays, etc. We feel this disconnect as stress.
Triage is the art of saying "No" in order to say "YES." The result is less stress.
Emergency responders at the scene of an accident learn to make initial judgements, based upon incomplete information, to say "no" to one patient in order to direct their attention to the patient with the greatest chance of survival.
The greatest obstacle to triage lies within the heart of the responder: the emotional weight of reckoning with what we cannot do. I believe a key to successful triage is to turn this around, refocusing upon what we CAN do.
It starts with a reality check: you and I have only about 120 hours of "life" every week. When the week ends, another one starts; you can't carry any of those hours forward. So we should purpose to maximize the number of those hours that we invest in doing what we really want to do. Being intentional rather than reactive.
By focusing on what we really want, we can better triage the distractions that flow through our day. It's easy to say No to an urgent-but-not-important request when I am choosing to say YES instead to a much more important choice - - because I have a much bigger YES on the other side of the No!