Prioritize Yourself in Your Time With The Word “No”

Michael Scott, played by Steve Carrell on The Office, saying "No! God! No! Please no! Nooooooooooooo."
Michael Scott knows what we’re talking about!

This one might seem obvious. Of course, canceling or saying “no” to things will bring you more free time. But, if you’re anything like most people, your inclination is to think that if that was possible for your particular schedule, you would already be doing it and, thus, it must not be possible to cancel anything or gain any more time.

The reality is though that, as easy as it is, most of us don’t cancel or say “no” that often. That leads us to overextend our time and undervalue ourselves. 

 With our obligations to ourselves and others, we force ourselves through periods of no time for rest or recovery. There are most likely things you could cancel right now that would bring you more time for things you need — be it time to take care of your health or sort out your tax filing. We know that we need the time so we can continue to show up as our best selves, but we don’t take it. We tell ourselves we’ll get around to that time we need eventually and, for now, exhaustion will have to do. 

But things will continue to be busy and it will be easy to not prioritize your needs… forever.

That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves that we can cancel or say “no.” Once you remember that you can, it’s important that you regularly check to see what time-sucks on your schedule you can cancel. If you’re feeling nervous, you don’t need to cancel these all the time. Try doing it when you’re out of balance, feeling fried, and need some extra time to bring your brain back to where you need it to be.

Some low-stakes, one-off examples if you feel like you never have anything you can cancel might include: 

  • A networking call or meal (it’ll be okay)
  • A trip to see your sister for the weekend (next month probably works just as well for her)
  • Your regular creative accountability group (yes, you joined to make the most of your output but you’re human, you can skip and it doesn’t mean your creativity will be gone forever)
  • A check-in where you have nothing to report or will be stressed the entire meeting because you have so much to do (your boss or co-workers have been there too)
  • That play you bought tickets for to support a friend but have no interest in (you can probably give the tickets to someone else and even if you can’t… you will still thank yourself for not pushing yourself to the limit for a play that you’re too exhausted to appreciate)

To learn more techniques to prioritize yourself in your schedule, complete Time Smart in Pique.

Boost Your Confidence And Achieve Your Goals

GIF of Jake the Dog from Adventuretime spinning in a circle saying "Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something."
Jake the Dog from Adventuretime offers some sounds advice that just might have boosted his confidence afterwards

What difference does confidence make? Well, it might make a huge difference when it comes to actually achieving your set goals.

Numerous studies have found that you’re far more likely to achieve your goals when you believe you will. Thankfully, you can hack your way to more confidence if you’re not feeling an abundance of it right now. 

While it might seem counter-intuitive, forming advice groups can help you gain confidence. And if “advice groups” sound formal and forced, worry not! We form these groups all the time — we just don’t always call them that. If you’ve ever walked with a co-worker to public transit after work to talk about issues you’re both having or called an old friend about a problem in your personal life only to end up talking through a problem in their life too, you’ve experienced this!

We often feel better on multiple levels after those conversations and leave them with an increased sense of confidence. Science can tell us why.

Katy Milkman worked on a project led by Lauren Eskreis-Winkler along with Angela Duckworth and Dena Gromet where they asked students to type up some advice for their younger peers on studying. Even those few minutes made a difference. The students who had typed up some advice for fellow students performed better in the classes they cared about most compared to the students who didn’t provide advice.

This advice-giving improves confidence because of the “saying-is-believing effect.” Thanks to cognitive dissonance, after you say something to someone else, you’re more likely to believe it yourself. So if you tell someone they should leave a job that makes them unhappy to do something more aligned with their values, you’re more likely to leave a job that makes you unhappy to better align yourself with your own values. 

Advice groups put you in situations to give advice and boost your confidence regularly, and thus make your goals feel more achievable.

Some more casual ways to do this, that don’t involve pre-scheduling a specific “advice group” but would likely include a natural give-and-take of advice or information, are:

  • Calling a good friend once or twice a month
  • Driving a co-worker home and chatting on the way
  • Having one-on-ones with a colleague from another team that you like, either scheduled or just periodically over lunch
  • Creating a bi-weekly creative accountability group where you check in with each other’s individual goals
  • Setting up a call with a former boss that you really liked or mentor-figure

To learn more techniques to make change easier, complete How To Change in Pique!

Humor At Work Can Progress Your Career

GIF of a dog wearing a tie barking at office desk, sitting in rolling desk chair
Humans at work? Oh, you said HUMOR at work!

If the idea of “humor at work” makes you shake your head, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel that professionalism and humor are mutually exclusive. In fact, we’re trained from the first time we enter a work setting that humor is something that derails productivity. And since work is all about productivity productivity productivity, humor ends up being checked at the door.

However… science says humor can be incredibly positive in the workplace. In truth, humor makes life in general — work included — so much better and it makes people – bosses included – trust us more. 

Robert Half International and Hodge-Cronin & Associates found 98% of surveyed executive leaders preferred employees with a sense of humor. 84% believed employees with a sense of humor do better work. There’s a positive peer-to-peer effect too — humor can make our peers more likely to attribute higher status to us and to vote us into leadership roles.

It goes further than that though. As long as it’s regarded as appropriate, humor that people laugh out loud at increases others’ perceptions of our confidence and has no meaningful impact on status or competence.

And it doesn’t even matter if you find yourself funny. Researcher Wayne Decker found that, regardless of whether they themselves felt funny, managers with a sense of humor were rated as 23% more respected, 25% more pleasant, and 17% friendlier.

Leaving aside others’ perceptions of you, there are intrinsic benefits as well. If you’ve worked through some of the activities on humor at work in Pique, you probably already know that humor even improves problem-solving more than traditional brainstorming! 

So, clearly, there’s data to back up the idea that humor, when done well, can be hugely beneficial at work. If you’re nervous or doubtful, here are some more low-stakes ways that you can add levity into work:

  • Add a GIF from a well-known TV show or pop culture reference into an email, event, or slide
  • Tell a humorous story to start a presentation
  • Start your somewhat awkward team meeting by answering silly, quick this-or-that style questions at the beginning (like “Would you rather fight 100 chicken-sized dinosaurs or a really angry archeologist”)
  • Put your favorite comic strip at your desk
  • Host an office trivia session for employee bonding
  • Create a March Madness-style bracket of snacks for people to vote on for the entire month of March and then bring the winner for everyone to enjoy at the end
  • Ask colleagues in passing if they saw a TV show or movie you liked and hear their thoughts

To learn more about humor in the workplace, complete Humor, Seriously in Pique.