Saying ‘no’: the difference between being busy and productive

Recall the adage that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person? There’s truth to it but it depends whether they’re busy because they’re effective at juggling a lot of tasks, or if they’re just bad at saying “no”.

Laura Vanderkam, a US-based expert in time management and author of books such as I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make The Most Of Their Time and What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast has interviewed a lot of the former.

These people are busy in the sense that they are highly productive. Vanderkam says they’ve developed the skill of assessing exactly how long a task will take. Therefore, when someone asks them to do something, they might say “no” but if they say “yes” you can be confident they’ll deliver.

The problem is there’s another category of people who are prone to underestimate how long something will take or find it difficult to say “no”. These people are also busy – in the sense that they’re overloaded and stressed. You can ask them to do something and they’ll probably say “yes”, but there’s a good chance they’ll flake out. Or they might say “yes”, and follow through – but at the expense of their health and sanity.

Read more from Cailin Fitzsimmons on the Sydney Morning Herald.

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