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April 16, 2012

The Business Wisdom of Hall & Oates

In this post, Matt Vanderlinden takes a second to consider the simple challenge of saying “no”…

Matt VanderlindenDaryl Hall and John Oates have been writing music for a long time. Their first album, Whole Oats, came out way back in 1972. And while they’re known around the world for their string of monster pop hits, I just recently discovered that they have a real knack for personal productivity coaching.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the prophetic lyrics of 1981’s ‘I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).’ Specifically, the last part of the song:

“Oh, I can’t go for that, (No can do)Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,
no can do,Oh, I can’t go for that, yeah, (No can do)No, no, no, no, no,
no.” (Repeat to fade-.)

While they may have totally guessed wrong in terms of fashion trends, as this picture clearly illustrates, they did accurately predict some of our modern-day struggles with simply saying ‘no.’ It’s one of the hardest things to do in business. It’s certainly hard to say no to a customer. But it’s even more difficult to say no to the day-to-day activities in our businesses that may seem urgent, but actually aren’t important. There’s a big difference between urgent and important, but many times they get interpreted as meaning the same thing. Just remember, they don’t.

There’s a great article on the Harvard Business Review’s site by Tony Schwartz that talks about the necessity of saying no in order to give yourself time to reflect on what’s important, both personally and professionally. If you don’t take that time to reflect, you really can’t prioritize what’s important. If you don’t prioritize, you’ll be overcome by the urgent.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. Follow these practical steps to help you focus on what’s important:

      1. Schedule the important things in your life on your calendar so you make time for them.
      2. Take 15 to 20 minutes at the end of your day to take stock of what you accomplished, and to set the priorities for tomorrow.
      3. When you start the day, do the most important thing on your list first.
      4. Take a break after about 90 minutes of work to give you a chance to revitalize.

Check out the original article for more details on how saying ‘no’ may be the best skill you could develop to become more productive.

P.S. For more insights from Hall and Oates, listen to ‘Rich Girl’ for a nuanced interpretation of modern socio-economic policy, and ‘Private Eyes’ for a brief explanation of the rise of police states. Enjoy!