No makes way for yes?

So this week at work, when I turned up for an event the day after it had occurred, I contemplated yet again my inability to say no and to manage my diary. To be fair, I had given myself a lovely quiet morning in a cafe right next to this event, working on something that had needed quiet time and concentration. But should I have even said yes to this in the first place, on whatever day it was? Probably not.

Now, I have watched the incomparable Marie Forleo talking about getting on the No train in various videos for several years now, and yet still, my diary fills with events that may or may not be working towards the change I hope to see. I know that Warren Buffet says that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” And that the late Steve Jobs said “Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” And still, I baulk at boarding the No Train.

I tell myself it is easier to say no when the profit margin is your metric. My day job is running my state’s patient advocacy organisation. We provide individual advocacy support as well as systemic advocacy support through engagement activities and contributing in a myriad of ways to policy developments.

We measure outputs (easy enough) and outcomes (harder, but we at least try to show that there is change created through what we do) and we are very good at not making a profit. But what exactly is your metric in the not for profit sector? There is no single metric for success. Measuring the good we do is a slippery and elusive art.

While we aim to set our own priorities, the reality is that the health sector churns with policies and models of care and so on that need reviewing, either because their time has come or real change is actually being attempted. When I say no to being part of this change or attempted change, am I saying for example, that prison health is not something that should be prioritised?

Once, we got excited at my work by the introduction of a triage tool for new projects. At last, we would be able to board the No Train with a systematic framework to guide us! But our initial excitement waned when it seemed like pretty much every project would make it through the triage tool and land, writhing for space and air in our diaries and schedules.

And so, while I have every intention of saying no I pretty continuously say yes to everything. ANd the current resistance seems to be the non-profit organisation excuse. The path to real change is very slippery and circuitous…

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