In NOISE

The holiday season provides a perfect example of the power noise has to distract and overwhelm.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself inundated with noise over the past few weeks. Constant text messages and reminders to attend holiday parties, the regular ding of new offers and discounts from various brands, emails from coworkers and clients trying to finish up projects before the end of the year. Taken together, it’s easy to drown.

So how do you resist all this noise?  One technique is the use of a formidable two letter word: NO.

“No” can stop bad decisions, sudden impulses, unwanted offers, and debilitating tendencies. It is as unambiguous as it is direct.

Seem like too simple a solution?  Not really. As old-school as it might sound, we have the power within us to choose what to tune out and when to tune in.

That’s not to say it’s not challenging. Whether somebody offers you a cookie or a distraction, it just feels better saying yes. Compare the taste and temptation of giving in versus the painful challenge of resisting and denying yourself. It’s hard.

But when you begin to use “no” regularly, you’ll understand the value it offers. Coupled with some of the other tips available in the Noise Survival Guide (download it here), the use of the word “no” further builds out your toolkit for taking back control. Here are five small steps you can take to make that little word a big part of your life:

  1. Say it out loud. Hearing yourself say no is very different than thinking it. Tell someone, “No, I can’t talk to you right now” or “No, unfortunately, I can’t make it to the holiday present wrapping extravaganza.” Or tell yourself, “No, I’m done checking email for the day” or “No, I am not going to do four things at once.”
  2. Mute small distractions. Search for some simple, potentially silly things to avoid. Maybe it’s not changing that holiday song to find a better one, putting your phone in the back seat while driving, or turning off the email notifications with holiday deals.
  3. Say yes to something else. Any distraction, interruption, or invitation to shift focus needs to be met not only with a sharp “no,” but also with a compelling “yes.” What is your personal reward when you resist more noise? Maybe if you focus hard at work all day, you can finish early and take the kids to get hot cocoa.
  4. Five out of seven isn’t bad. Don’t be a perfectionist. Avoiding noise all the time is improbable and unlikely. Dialing it down to even half the volume will make your life better—especially during the busy holiday season.

Saying no can certainly change your life for the better, especially around the holiday season. There is one thing I hope you don’t say no to, however: grabbing a copy of my book, Noise: Living and leading when nobody can focus, available now on Amazon.

There’s so much noise around us that disturbs, distracts, and defeats us. But being human means we can choose. It may not feel good to say no and we might think and feel things that pull us in a different direction, but we can make that powerful little word work for us. A decisive no can lead to noise abatement.

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