The Time Management Secret Weapon

We have all experienced that feeling of “I don’t have enough time.”  Some of us are even used to it as our default situation.  But for some, it creeps up on you and comes as a shock; because you thought you were good at managing your time.

And you probably are.  Reading Biz Net on the train or in your lunch break, fitting jobs in where you have a gap, planning each day and reviewing priorities when things change, and handling interruptions.  Business people become adept at all of this.  And if you are not, try the best-selling “Brilliant Time Management”.

But what if you are good at managing your time and yet now, you are starting to find that more often you are running out of today, before you run out of to-do?  Maybe your standard time management tools aren’t enough.  Maybe you need something else: the time management secret weapon.

The secret weapon is something you know about, but need to use more often.  The better you get at managing your business life and your time, the more opportunities arise and the more demands there are on your time.  So now you need to stop focusing on the “how” and get strategic.  Start instead to focus on the “what” and the “why”.

For every opportunity, each request, and all calls on your time, now ask “Why? – What will I get if I do this and what will I lose if I don’t?”  Focus more on what to do and less on how to do it.

The problem for many of us is that we know this yet find it hard to say “no” when an opportunity arises or a colleague asks us for help.  The commonest reason for this is simple: fear.  Fear of the consequences of saying “no” and of losing an opportunity you may never get again.   And, above all, fear that, by saying “no”, you will sound negative; and who wants that?

So what you need is the secret weapon: not “no”, but “N.O.”: a Noble Objection.  A Noble Objection recognises that your time, your most precious resource, is limited.  So saying “yes” risks dissipating your energy across too many things and therefore risks failing on some.  That risk also means you may fail on things that are more important and more valuable than those you succeed on.  A NO is noble when you think through your choices: what are your priorities, what will deliver the most value from your time, why should you choose yes or NO?

And unlike its puny cousin “no”, A NO is not negative.  What could be more positive than something that is noble?  A Noble Objection declines a request, an offer or an opportunity for the right reasons, and in a respectful way.  Deploy it more often and you will soon find you have more time to focus on what matters most, less energy dissipated on low-consequence activity, and a reputation for acting in a more strategic way.

So, what will you say NO to, today?

About the Author

Dr Mike Clayton is a business speaker and author with nine books to date.  His latest, The YES/NO Book was published in October by Pearson.  Learn more about it at  You can contact Mike through his website at