No.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about 10 things that will save you time at the office. But there’s one more I didn’t write about in that post, and I want to touch on it now:

It’s the word “no.”

I haven’t always been good at saying that word. I really like saying “yes.” I like being helpful to other teams at work, I like offering my time when I can, and I like working on new projects. I try to say “yes” to things as much as possible.

But I’ve also learned that “yes” can lead to trouble — if you say it one time too many.

There are three resources at my disposal that other people want: My time, my skills, and my team. As a manager, my job is manage those resources and make sure my team doesn’t overextend itself. So that means that more and more, I’m saying “no” to projects.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to be able to say “yes” to everything. I love helping people, and I’m lucky to be a position where I can help others do better work. But I’ve learned that there are times when you have to say “no.”

I’m still not great at saying that word, but I’ve learned a few things that have helped me say it better:

1) Be direct — I wrote it in that earlier post, and I’ll say it again: Being direct will save you time in the long run. Most co-workers initially request help via email, and that’s a place where you can be straight with people. I send a lot of these types of emails: “No, I can’t help right now. Sorry!” You’re not a jerk for saying that — you’re just being up front with people.

2) Saying “yes” when you don’t have the resources is even worse than a “no” — If you can’t actually help the person but say “yes” anyway, you’re making things worse for everyone. You’ll end up holding up their work, and on top that, it’s just plain rude. Don’t say “yes” if you can’t commit.

3) Try to find another way to help — If I can’t say “yes,” I’ll often meet with the person anyway just to listen and see if I can offer some advice. At the very least, maybe I can point them towards someone who can help.

I still don’t like saying “no,” but I’m learning how important it is to prioritize my three big resources: Time, skills, and team. Sometimes, you have to say “no” to keep those a priority.

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That photo of a closed door comes via Buzac Marius for Unsplash.

Let’s Make Yesterday Count.

by Thomas Brault

When I first started working, there were really only two types of days: good days, and bad days.

But over time, those two categories spawned a whole new set of days. There were good days that were slow, and good days that were fast; good days where a dozen great things all seemed to happen at once; good days where it felt like months of work paid off on the same day.

But there were plenty more good days where nothing obviously good happened — where no big work seemed to get done, but that still definitely qualified as a good day.

Those are actually some of my favorite days, but they’re hard to recognize in the moment. They’re the days where you’re doing lots of work to set up another day. For me, that might mean working with someone on my team to brainstorm a big new idea, or building out the tech back-end for a project. It could even be a day where I’m working on spreadsheets or other monotonous work that just has to get done.

It’s that kind of work that frees you up to do the exciting stuff another day, like launching a project or hiring a new member of the team. Those are the days when you lay out the framework. The next day, or the day after that, you’ll start building something big on top of it.

So when I get to those exciting days down the road, I try to remind myself to make those yesterdays count. I’ll tell myself: You’ve already put in the hard work. Now make something awesome with all of it.

Great work is built on a whole lot of yesterdays. When a big work day arrives, take a moment to appreciate how many good days you’ve already put in to get to a day like this. And then go out and do the work to make those yesterdays count.

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There’s probably a symbolic meaning to that photo, but I mostly picked it for this post because it looks cool. (Hey, not everything has to have a deeper meaning!) It’s by Thomas Brault for Unsplash.

What Does The Modern News Media And Whaling Have To Do With One Another?

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I’m taking the week off, and spending it up in Nantucket. I love it up here: the days are simple, and there isn’t internet or TV at the house. (I’m making a quick exception to log online for this post.)

The island is an interesting case in reinvention. A few hundred years ago, this was the whaling capital of the world. Today, the big industry is tourism. Aside from the Whaling Museum downtown, and a few extra copies of “Moby Dick” at local bookstores, you wouldn’t have any idea that life on Nantucket was so radically different in the 1700s and 1800s.

But something caught my eye this week in the local paper, the Inky Mirror. (Back in the day, I used to write for the Inky’s rival, the Indy. They like their newspaper abbreviations up here.) Every week, they publish an excerpt from the paper back in the day. The full excerpt is at the top of this post, but I wanted to highlight a snippet. It’s from the Inky 150 years ago, and it depicts an island on the verge of a huge transition:

“But the whale fishery is gone; gone beyond hope of revival. And if we truly love our island home, and would retain its already reduced population, we must introduce new branches of industry.”

The general theme of it seems familiar to me: Good news to report on the new industry in town, followed by a warning that said industry might not actually work, followed by a reminder that the old industry is long gone, and total reinvention could be necessary.

Why so familiar? Because… that’s the formula for nearly every report on the state of the news industry over the past 10 years! There’s always the good news (“We’re making more money via digital advertising than last year”), following by the big warning (“But this pales in comparison to ad revenues from 20 years ago”), followed by the requisite announcement (“We still need to make much more money to be sustainable in the long run.”).

I know how things turned out on Nantucket, even though I’m not sure islanders would’ve believed it 150 years ago. (“You’re telling me that this postage-sized stamp of scrub brush 30 miles off Cape Cod is going to be a tourist destination? And everyone’s going to wear cranberry-red pants? Really???”) How things turn out for the news industry, I’m not sure. But it’s not hard to alter that Inky warning for the news media of 2015:

“But print advertising is gone; gone beyond hope of revival. And if we truly love journalism, and would retain its already reduced influence, we must introduce new branches of revenue and distribution.”

Anyway, check back to this blog in 2165, and I’ll probably have an update then on how things turn out. (Hopefully sooner.)