Learning to Say “NO”

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I have a colleague at work who we dubbed as “Mr. No”. Why? He would practically say “no” to all the incredulous demands even from our bosses. Knowing our company mantra of “making things possible”, saying “no” to our bosses really needs a lot of guts to do.

Declining a request however, does not necessarily mean a bad thing. Albeit, denying someone’s request or demand especially those in the upper level of the heirarchy in your organization or even your clients is very hard to do. In fact, it is an innate human nature to please and not create conflict or confrontation with others.

But learning to say “no” is one way of boosting your productivity. How? It allows you to screen out unnecessary things that may take you out of your focus from the important things that can add value to you and to your work. This is specifically handy when you feel that you are already loaded with work which in turn affects your performance and productivity.

But how do we say “no” without having the guilt feeling that you might have offended the other party? Here are three points that you might want to consider.

1. Have a solid reason of saying “no”. This is very important since you may need to do some explaining when you decline someone of their request or demand. Tell the other party why you honestly cannot accept the request or demand. This will help others understand why it is not possible for you to take on a certain task.

2. Propose a compromise. If the other party still negotiates with you to do the job even after you explain why you cannot do an extra load, suggest ways on how can he be able to pull through the task without compromising your own schedule. Either you help him find someone who can help him with his request or negotiate with him for you to do the task after you finish your priorities. If you choose the latter, be transparent on when can you actually accommodate him so he can weigh his options. In this way, it would lessen the hard feelings of being declined because (1) you are saying “no” while trying to be helpful and (2) the other party may come to his own realization (hopefully), that you really cannot do his request and may choose to find somebody else to do it.

3. Be wary of your tone. This is one of the keys to successfully turn down someone without sounding offensive. Oftentimes, even with our good reason and intention, people misunderstood our context just because of the way we deliver our message. If you sound to be argumentative or irritated to other party, he will dismiss your explanation as just just mere alibi to escape from the task even if you are telling the truth. On the other hand, people tend to accept your reason if you say it in a calm or even a little apologetic voice. Just don’t be too overly apologetic else they might see you as a scheming person.

If all else fail, you can always find someone to back you up to convince the other person to just let it go. 😊


How I Manage My Time and Maximize Productivity

If you believe in all the movies and novels that glamorize the corporate world as a place where you look chic every day and you get a hefty pay for working in an airconditioned office, a lot of insiders would tell you that corporate setup is a jungle. Corporate world is very fast-paced and will take a lot of your precious time. In fact, it is not for everybody. I particularly work in a very demanding industry with a very high customer expectation. As my colleagues would jokingly tell me, my day would not be complete if I did not eat stress for breakfast (and dinner too!).

Working corporate for ten years I would say that your the major enemy is TIME. Thus, you must learn to do time management so you can increase your productivity. And mind you, being busy is different from being productive. Rendering overtime almost every day doesn’t mean that your efficient. In fact it can be viewed otherwise.

Learning time management is a major feat. There are a lot of time management and productivity tools out there and you just have to choose what works for you best. Let me share to you the productivity tools that I am currently using.

Bullet Journal

Planning your task is one essential way to improve your productivity. Thus, a good planning system is a must. While I use digital calendar in my phone and my laptop to keep track of my appointments and tasks, I keep a planner handy in my bag or in the office. However, I prefer to use a bullet journal instead of a pre-made planner because of its flexibility. Since a bullet journal is basically a blank notebook, I can customize it according to my productivity needs. I am not limited to the layout of pages that most of the planners in the market has to offer. My bullet journal contains my calendars, to-do list, trackers, notes, brain dump for ideas, journal, etc. It is my one-stop shop planning system and this is the only planner that I really maintained.

Eisenhower Matrix

Have you ever experienced being drowned on your to-do list with no clue as to where to start? It always end to not doing anything at all right? One strategy I discover in tackling my enormous to do list is to use the Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Box. It is basically a box divided into four quadrant which is then further classified by the Urgency and Importance. Take a look at the box below.

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The quadrants on the left hand-side represents the things that are Urgent while the right hand side quadrants are for the Not Urgent tasks. In terms of importance, the upper half of the box is for the Important tasks while the bottom ones are for those Not Important.

To use the box for decision making label the Quadrants as follows: Q1 (Urgent & Important)- DO; Q2 (Not Urgent But Important) – DECIDE/ PLAN; Q3 (Urgent But Not Important) – DELEGATE; Q4 (Not Important & Not Urgent) – DELETE / DON’T DO.

Every morning I write down all my things to do in a piece of paper and then put each task in the quadrants base on the task’s urgency and importance. I make sure that I do the things under Q1 in the morning and do the tasks under Q2 afterwards or in the following day. I find persons who can help me out on the tasks under Q3 so it can also be done within the day. For things that will fall under Q4, they are immediately scratch off from the to-do list altogether. In that way, I can focus my day accomplishing tasks that has higher impact to my day and yield higher productivity.

Pomodoro Method

Photo from UKCAT Blog

Working on your daily tasks, however you divide them by priorities is exasperating especially if you are working on big requirements such as project presentations, project analysis and project updates that take a big chunk of your time and suck the energy out of you. It is important for me to have a balance between my work and some rest so even if I tackle a big task I don’t feel like losing too much energy in the work. So I use the Pomodoro method in my advantage.

How does it work? Before I start any task, I set my timer to 25 minutes. I do my work for the full 25 minutes without distraction- no checking of emails, sms messages and social media. After the full 25 minutes is over, I take 5 minutes break. On the fourth cycle of 25 minutes, I take a 10 minutes break. I find out that I am more productive in finishing my task using this method rather than beating myself into finishing the task straight without any small breaks.


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I am a visual person. In order for me to retain details in my memory or to make a good analysis of data, I like to arrange the information in a way that I can easily see the cause and effect. Thus, in doing crucial reports, I make a mindmap of the subject in question. Mindmapping is simply breaking down the subject matter into smaller, important information and arranging them in such a way that it can easily be understood. I use tree diagrams to create my mindmaps or a fishbone one if I need to do critical analysis.

Cornell Method

My usual work week is incomplete without any meetings. In fact, I have two scheduled recurrent meetings every week. So it is important for me to have a clear, concise notes of the minutes to reference decision points and important instructions for the project. For my note- taking, I still use the same method that works for me back in my university days- the Cornell Method. It is a simple yet very efficient way of note taking method to extract important information during meetings.

The method divides your notes into 3 parts: (1) Cue column in the left hand side of your paper where you put keywords, or questions, or reference names; (2) the main note taking area is the right hand side of your paper where you take down details; and (3) your bottom 3rd is your Summary area wherein you can summarize your minutes afterwards.

The reason why I like this method is that it enables me to write my MOM in telegraphic form then afterwards, I can review and summarize the details in full sentences. If there is any clarification on the data I have noted while I am writing down my summary, I can easily go to cue column and note my clarification question so I would remember them. In this way, I will remember to ask the question via email or on the next meeting.

So there you have it. I hope that these simple techniques that I have shared can help you boost your productivity and time management 😊.

How to avoid workspace chaos to increase your productivity

Believe it or not, your workspace layout affects on how you are faring out with office productivity.  The notion that a messy cubicle (READ: paper works filing up, reminder board overflowing with post-its of things to do, office supplies scattered around your desk, etc) evokes hard work  is wrong. Truth is, a messy workspace is equal to a less productive office day. Employees with workspace overly loaded with stuff usually lost at least one productive hour looking for important things and documents that are lost in the sea of their workspace mess. Thus, in order to keep your sanity and efficiency, a good workspace organization is highly necessary.

Are you ready to make that change in your office desk for a more productive you? Here are tips on how to effectively organize your office space to achieve your productivity goals:
Observe proper desk layout


Consider your desk as your own command post. To increase efficiency, lay out your desk so as there will be minimal distractions during your work. Your monitor/ laptop should be at the middle of your table and within eye level.  As much as possible, keep only the necessary supplies on your table and within your reach for easy access.

Minimize your office supplies

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Your office supplies are tools to make your work life easy and not meant to be a distraction. Limit the number of pens, papers and other office tools on your desk. Those frequently used item must be in your desk and within your reach and keep those items which you seldom use in the upper part of your pedestal drawer below your desk.

Limit your personal mementos

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                Travel souvenirs and personal photos are good motivation for you to work hard but going overboard in displaying them in your workspace may become a distraction also since it tends to take away your attention from what you need to do. To effectively manage your “personal space” in your desk, limit your personal items to three things only. Position them at the farthest end of your desk to avoid drawing too much attention.

Tame that reminder board


                It is a good thing to put up a reminder board for the things that you need to do. However, an overloaded reminder board defeats its purpose as you have the tendency to lose those memos and miss the things that are urgent.  One thing to do to avoid your reminder board from cluttering is to do immediately whatever you have written on your note.  Be diligent in removing the notes that are no longer needed and save those contact details on your phone or your address book.

Mind your paper works


Your papers are the usual culprit of your office clutter.  Some employees have the tendency to procrastinate in reviewing, signing or routing office documents until such time that the pile on the table is higher than the empire state tower.  Others are just lazy to dispose ” expired” documents that they keep on piling up on the desk and become permanent eyesore.  Use the paper tray wisely. Don’t let those documents sit on your paper tray. Have an SLA for your documents processing which includes signing, routing, filing and disposing. Take advantage of your office scanner and scan those important documents which you may need and store them in your computer storage drive where you can easily access them when needed.

Free up a “white space”


It would be advantageous to keep a space the size of an A4 paper to make it easier for you to review and sign documents. It is recommended to designate this space in your dominant side.

Follow a specific work flow

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                Working on a number of tasks almost simultaneously may become overwhelming. It is important then to keep relevant documents of active tasks in your table and learn to prioritize tasks. Group your work flow as:
1.  High important and urgent

2.Urgent but not important 

3. Important but not urgent

4. Not urgent and not important

In that way, you avoid missing out on the documents and your tasks.

Keeping up with an organized workspace requires constant follow through on the process. Make it a habit to clean up your desk to avoid accumulating clutters.