Knowing Your Own “Shoulds” for Better Productivity

Maybe this is a bit of wisdom that comes with age — the biggest danger I see for me and for others in getting things done and managing our time best is not so much in being lazy, but in doing the wrong stuff. For me, productivity is all about doing the right stuff and saying no to the wrong stuff.

Simple in theory, but not so simple in practice. 

Knowing Your shoulds for better productivity!
danger to getting things done is not in being lazy, but in doing the wrong stuff. #timemanagement #productivity Click To Tweet

Or, worse yet, wallowing in guilt over all the “shoulds” we’re told we should do but aren’t.

These kinds of things weary us in every area of life…whether we’re moms or working from home, or trying to start a business. Even in the ministry.

The Cure for Shoulds that Aren’t Important to Us

There is a cure for this. There is a way to get past all the Shoulds that others put on us, that isn’t as important to us.


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The way to be more productive at what matters most to you is to

  • know your own shoulds and
  • set boundaries to protect them.

I would say “it’s that easy” but it’s difficult. If it were, this wouldn’t be such a problem for everyone. Right?

The greater danger to getting things done is not in being lazy, but in doing the wrong stuff.

Knowing Your Own Shoulds

First off, we have “knowing your own shoulds”.

I suppose the better way to phrase this would be to know your own values. Know what is important to you.

know your own values and know what is important to you. #missionstatement #goals #productivity Click To Tweet

You figure your “shoulds” out not by what everyone says you should do (though obviously, we can learn from others, so we shouldn’t discount that outright), but by what you value most in life. I feel that writing this down helps, as I wrote in another post. 

For me, as a Christian, there are some things that are non negotiable. Then there are other things that I feel God has laid heavy on my heart as areas of service to Him and others. I figure these in when working out a mission statement. 

Even as a blogger, I have to be careful not to “should” on people in a way that makes them feel like they are lazy idiots for doing what works best for them.

As a blogger, I have 2b careful not to should on people but encourage to do what works 4 them. #productivity Click To Tweet


Setting Boundaries that Protect What is Important to You

The second part is even harder than the first part. It’s much easier to figure out what you value and what is important to you regarding scheduling, time management, money management, etc. It’s way harder to enforce it when you get peer pressure about this issue.

Saying no is hard for me. I grew up without the ability to say no to anyone, but a simmering bitterness over feeling used. Total People Pleaser. Every mistake and every regret I have I feel l can trace back to doing something I didn’t want to do or knew was wrong to do, but I didn’t want to upset someone.

Such is life, huh? We live and learn.

When I first said no and enforced some boundaries, I went overboard to where I was only doing what made Kim happy. This was also not good and frankly violated one of my key values as a person and as a Christian.

I had to find the balance between saying no to the things that would drive me far off course from where I knew I should go, and still being able to be spontaneous with the people and relationships in my life that needed attention.  Some of this came into clearer focus after two of my kids were in a near-fatal car wreck.

Boundaries, Productivity, and Purpose

For me, boundaries regarding my mission statement are especially important in helping me filter out opportunities that come my way…things that sound good but which aren’t important or which would distract long term from where I feel God wants me to go.

So, how do you say no graciously but firmly?

Usually, I just say no, or “No thank you.” Frequently I say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m going to have to pass.”

Let me share a tip with you:

The more you try to explain yourself and the more details you give for your “no”, the more likely people are to talk you into doing what they want you to do vs. what you feel is important for you to do. So don’t give an explanation.

The more details you give for your no, people will try 2 talk u into doing what they want you to do Click To Tweet

Learning to Say No Graciously

I’ve had some folks ask why when I say no to something. I try to make light of the situation instead of grumbling and being harsh. It often goes like this:

Them: “Why not?”

Me: “Just no. Let’s leave it at that, okay?”

Them: “But why?”

Me: “It’s non-negotiable for me at this time. Just no.”

Them: “But…[fill in with sales pitch]”

Me: “Oh come on now. Why are you having a hard time respecting me enough to respect the word no?” (said with a smile on my face and a little bit of a tease in my voice)

At this point, some people “get it” and realize they are being a little too pushy and disrespectful. This is good. Others are not so bright, or are just plain bullies. If they push any harder I say,

Me: “One more comment on this topic after I’ve asked you to drop it and I’ll be walking away (or hanging up, or unfriending you, or ignoring you or whatever).”

Then stick to it. I had to turn and walk away from someone recently. They were aghast and thought I was being rude in doing so. However, I said no enough times that the rudeness was on them.

Enforcing Boundaries with Yourself

Sometimes it’s not someone else. It’s your own self that you battle in sticking to what’s important.

Here are some tips that have helped me with this. Use whatever one’s work for you.

First, make sure you know what is and is not really important to you, and why it’s important.

For me, sometimes reminding myself of the “why” helps me stick to it better.

Make sure you know what is and is not really important to you, and why it's important. #boundaries #goals Click To Tweet

If the pull of instant gratification regarding something is too strong, and the reward for sticking to it is too far off into the future, it may help to break up the goal or “should” into smaller bites, and put some rewards into it along the way, to encourage yourself for sticking to what you know to be important to you. Try to keep your rewards in tune with the goal. I’ve found that helps.

Second, make sure you don’t have a list of “shoulds” a mile long that no one person might accomplish.

If this is the case, and you have too many, it may be time to prioritize what is and isn’t important on that to-do list right now. Put some of them aside into a “someday” file”. I’ve written more on this regarding how I organize Evernote for productivity. By putting great ideas and important things into Evernote, even if it’s a “Someday” notebook, I can focus on what’s important and I’ll get to the other stuff, eventually.

Don't have a list of shoulds a mile long that no one person can possibly accomplish. Click To Tweet

Third, listen to your body.

Now I know that sometimes our bodies can say things that go against our goals and priorities. My body often wants Cinnamon rolls, and yet my priorities say I want to get to a healthy weight. Here, listening to my body is a bad idea.

However, if I’m exhausted and coming down with something, it’s a good idea to hit the pause button and relax, get some sleep, and get healthy. If I’m coming down with a sinus infection, any work I’m going to complete is going to be junk. Trying to work when I really need to rest isn’t productivity. In fact, it will harm my productivity in the long run. I still try, though. I need to heed this advice myself.

Fourthly, Remind yourself of your Why’s regularly. 

With our lists of shoulds, sometimes we negotiate with ourselves when we don’t really feel like it at this exact moment. Usually, when I’m in that mode, I’m also not willing to look at my mission statement or to remind myself of why I made those productivity goals.

Instead, I have to remind myself of what is important to me, and why, regularly. Every morning, when I wake up, I look over my list of why’s and my productivity list. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that I have a copy in my Evernote app. I read it over. I have it practically memorized at this point. It doesn’t matter. I need the reminder.

Remind yourself of your Whys regularly. Click To Tweet

And, being a Christian, I also pray over that list every morning, asking for wisdom, self-control, and the ability to get ‘er done.

The greater danger to getting things done is not in being lazy, but in doing the wrong stuff.

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