We’ve all experienced the wrath of “have to” at some point in our careers. The workplace is rife with things that you seemingly “have to” do – You “have to” be at this meeting. You “have to” respond to this email. For many, those two words reign supreme over their workflow.
Research shows that workers make it, on average, only 11 minutes into a project before being distracted. It then takes 25 minutes to return to the task post-distraction. In configuring a workplace full of dictated by the “have to”, we are letting external factors dictate our priorities, often to the detriment of things we should be doing. We feel compelled to check emails, take random coffee meetings and attend last minute events.
Every time we say, “I have to take this call” or “I have to send this piece of work off” or “I have to go to this client meeting,” we are assuming that previous commitments are nonnegotiable. Every time you use the phrase “I have to” over the next week, stop and replace it with “I choose to.” It can feel a little odd at first — and in some cases it can even be gut-wrenching (if we are choosing the wrong priority). But ultimately, using this language reminds us that we are making choices, which enables us to make a different choice.
“I choose to” vs. “I have to” has become a major key to my workflow at Splash Effect. My role as co-founder has me at the receiving end of multiple “have to” tasks. Learning how to prioritize by saying no (when respectful and structured ) both to myself and my team, has helped me to deflect distractions and ensure that the right projects are completed.