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Last week, we saw how difficult it is to say “No,” and as a result of that we keep finding ourselves running in circles in the rat race and away from achieving results. Some of the reasons we looked into, for not being able to say ‘No”, were the importance of relationships (we don’t like to disappoint others), procrastination (postponing things that really need to be done) and not knowing very well what our real priorities are. The sad thing is that as some people fail to say “No” to requests that come their way, they often don’t really mean it and will not do what they just promised they will do. As a result, they disappoint the very person they didn’t want to disappoint in the first place and, in the end, they become somebody that cannot be trusted.  We concluded that needless interruptions, unimportant meetings, some phone calls, some email and other people’s problems are examples of issues that may come our way, and that we need to learn to say “No” to, if we want to be more effective in achieving what really needs to be done. And to be able to say “No” we need to know what our priorities are, and thus, what to say “Yes” to.
Interestingly enough, things we need to learn to say “Yes” to, are things that are usually not very urgent. Instead, we easily say “Yes” to things that are seemingly urgent, no matter whether they are important or not. Telephone calls are a good example of something urgent that comes our way at any time and that we cannot resist to answer, when we don’t even know yet whether that call is more important and worth answering while attending to a very important client or meeting, for example. Many people enjoy attending to what seems to be something urgent and are busy being busy, while they should be doing something else more important instead. A typical, not so urgent thing that is easily pushed forward is, planning ahead. Planning ahead can prevent a lot of trouble later but we seem to prefer facing the crisis and end up fighting fires here and there. Planning for the sake of planning doesn’t help much either, if activities are not being carried out according to plan and that happens a lot. Weddings provide a good example here. Quite a number of meetings are held to plan for a wedding which is a very important occasion indeed. Many things need to be arranged like limousines, flowers, the hall, the church, meals, drinks, the video, the dress and the invitations. During these planning meetings, people are assigned tasks, which they eagerly agree to do as they cannot say “No”, remember? However, some of them will eventually drag their feet and fail to do what was agreed upon, much to the disappointment of others. As we get closer to the wedding, the fire fighters and crisis managers come forward and all is well that ends well, but only at the cost of a lot of stress and uncertainty while things could have easily gone wrong.  The time spent planning is time well spent, but only if the plan is carried out accordingly, and adjusted in time if so required.
As mentioned above, proper planning can prevent a lot of trouble later. Do I have to mention the construction industry again? I see houses being built without properly planning the order in which things need to be done. As a result, walls and ceilings are broken up again for the plumber or electrician to come and lay their pipes and cables. The lack of planning also affects the quality of the end result as things are done in a hurry.
Planning, preparation and prevention are thus the issues we need to learn to say “Yes” to if we want to achieve results. And while plan “A” is ready to be carried out, it is good to have a plan “B” in case things turn out differently. Pausing and adjusting the plan is just as important as there are always hiccups and unexpected developments. Therefore, the motto “expect the unexpected,” helps in crisis prevention and to effectively move forward. This is what pilots do before taking off: they make sure they have enough fuel to divert to alternate airports, should they encounter a problem that prevents them from reaching their destination.
Now, planning can only be done properly if we know what the end result needs to look like; in other words, if we connect to the purpose of the organization we work for or a specific project we are involved in. Next, we need to know what our own role is in achieving the results required by the organization or the project.  After that, goals and objectives can be set, followed by identification of the activities needed to be carried out to meet those objectives. Finally, a budget and timetable can be set, providing the resources for what needs to be done is readily available. And while the project is now underway, it is important to consistently monitor progress, figure out where things go different than planned and adjust the plan accordingly. With the end result in mind, chances are that they will now be reached. Meanwhile, we need to keep saying “No” to the things that come our way but distract us from reaching our objectives and goals.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.