This is another top idea from Rob Bevan kind of via David Allen again of Getting Things Done fame. Allen writes very well on what do you do when the unexpected happens (Apart from panic). This is a key question to ask yourself since life is always this uneasy truce or balance between routine and the unexpected. If your plate is too full of routine tasks then the unexpected can really throw you. So you get used to either saying no, or failing to deliver on your enthusiastic yeses. Allen says, rightly, that most stress is having conflicting commitments- you said yes too many times. It put me in mind of that Jim Carey film Yes Man- where a man who habitually reacts to the unexpected with ‘no’ starts to say ‘yes’ instead. But in the movie there is only one instance when there is some conflict and he has said yes to two things and he can’t deliver. That happens all the time in real life even for a fairly competent nay sayer such as myself. Especially if you are thinking new stuff up. Being a yes man is essentially reactive- you sit on your arse waiting for people to ask you to do things. But if you are thinking things up to do you could ask ten people all to do different things on a Saturday morning and then when it comes along you’ll wish you’d been a bit more cautious.
The people who get into trouble do so because they originate projects that they cannot or will not complete. In the old saying ‘they set hares running’- the dogs follow hither and thither all over the place- not a nice thing to do to your friends.
There is even a guy in Spain who calls himself Si A Todo- yes to everything- he now lives in the hills and not Barcelona interestingly- maybe he couldn’t get anything done in the city- I think it’s less about reactingly favourably to other people’s ideas and more about coming up with ideas yourself. Saying yes is like level one optimism and positiveness, but level two is thinking up a project for others to say yes to. Asking others to say yes with you.
But how do you avoid double booking yourself? Allen suggests constantly trimming and modifying your commitments- which can really annoy people. In writing a book your best bet is to agree to nothing that will take any effort during the main draft- so I guess in any big project never agree to anything that will distract you. When you are not on a big project it's harder, though much easier when you stop trying to please people and start doing things for their functional effect.