“What are your no-exception priorities?” If you want to really make progress toward your most important goals, you need firm, not flexible boundaries.
Are You Sabotaging Your Own Success?
I have a four year old daughter and a seven year old son. One thing I can tell you for certain: my kids are natural-born lawyers who have learned to negotiate.
When it’s bedtime at my house, what’s the typical response? “Can I have ten more minutes? Can I watch one more show? Can I have a snack? I need a drink of water. I need to go potty. I don’t want to put on my pj’s. Can you lay down with me so I can tell you about my day?” (That last one always gets me and they know it J). Or just plain, “NO!!”
We carry those same negotiating tendencies into adulthood as coaches. The problem is that we sometimes turn the negotiation on ourselves. Instead of trying to see how far we can get with our parents, we try to see how far we can get with our own boundaries.
What do I mean by that?
Maybe we have a hard stop on to our workday, a scheduled weekly review with your staff, or morning routine follow. Those are excellent boundaries that will serve as guardrails for our productivity.
But then, all too often, we sabotage ourselves by creating exceptions up front. It might look something like this:
- “I’ll leave the office at 5 p.m., except when I want to get a few more recruiting emails out.”
- “I’ll do my workout, unless I’m exhausted. I can always do it tomorrow.”
- “I’ll start my morning ritual by 6 a.m., unless I’m feeling sluggish or want a few extra minutes of sleep.”
These sound reasonable, right? And I know there is a ton of productivity advice out there advocating flexible boundaries, but this kind of flexibility is not your friend.
The reason is simple: If you give yourself an out, chances are good you’ll take it. For instance, leaving the office at 5 p.m. might be a challenge. It’s easy to define any inconvenience as a potential crisis and push your workday out another hour.
I bet we can all imagine a hundred different examples like that. Eventually, all those special circumstances stack up and you’ve failed to achieve what you know is most important and you stop making progress.
That’s why flexible boundaries don’t make us more productive. They force us to negotiate our priorities in the moment, which then invites us to make compromises. And those compromises kill your productivity.
Set Your No-Exception Priorities
It’s better to decide once and be done with it. Then you can get on with the work that really matters. Eventually, we have to learn to say, “no exceptions.” If your productivity matters, then there are a few commitments that deserve that level of commitment.
Here are three of mine:
- I have a morning ritual that I go through seven days a week. No exception.
- I work out 5 days a week. No exceptions.
- I don’t work for 2 hours every night. No exception.
So, now a question for you: “What are your no-exception priorities?” If you want to really make progress toward your most important goals, you need firm, not flexible boundaries.