On saying "no"

To-Do-List

Evangelism

I love my job. When I first came on board to the Developer Evangelism team at Microsoft, a peer explained it to me as “owning your own small business within Microsoft”, and I’ve found that to be the absolute truth.

WIth that though, comes quite a bit of responsiblity. Although we have an office outside of Philadelphia, in Malvern PA, I seldom go there. I generally work from home, and only see my boss a handful of times each year, as he lives several cities away. As you can imagine, my role can quickly grow out of control without a solid foundation, largely due to how much freedom is offered.

I read as much as humanly possible. I have a massive list of RSS feeds which I go through each morning, and occasionally in the evenings, through the Feedly extension in my browser. Additonally, I have the terrible habit of buying more books than I can read on my Kindle app. I thought about buying a Kindle device, but I have a massive Lumia 1520, so that serves me pretty well for reading. Between the recommendations I recevie from Jason and Matthew Doucette at Xona Games, I have enough books to last me a lifetime.

Just look at my Amazon wishlist — it’s all books. Well, minus that Sega Saturn Japanese converter cart. I’ll likely never find the time to use that thing.  I’ve also been learning to speed read more effective as of late. Once you get the hang of it, your productivity goes through the roof. I’ll share a post on that soon.

I want to write more posts like this in the future, so as I continue to read more books, you’ll find bits and blurbs on here. One of the most important things I’ve learned of late, is how to be effective. I work in the developer community, and although I’m located in Philadelphia with my peer Amanda Lange, we still need to travel to other cities across the US and work with developers throughout.

Managing time

Managing time is difficult thing, and I’ve stuggled with it for a while. There are so many people in the community to please, but only so much time to perform the tasks that satisfies them. So how do I make them all happy?

I don’t.

It’s all about being effective. I’d rather 3 people have really nice things to say about our experience together and how well we’ve managed to get their project off the ground, than to have 10 developers merely say that our work together was mediocore at best. In order to do this I’ve got to say “no” more often than I’d like.

It’s not that I enjoy saying “no”, in fact, it’s just the opposite. But the key here is to focus on a handful of tasks (no more than 3 at any given moment) and excel at those. Everything else can be pushed off to the side until a later date. Then, when those 3 tasks are able to manage themselves, or you’ve made satisfactory progress, it’s time to put those to the side and focus on 3 more items.

Before I say no to anyone though, I have to consider a few things:

1) Is this a unique opportunity? Meaning, will it present itself again in the future?

2) How many people can I reach?

3) What are my current goals?

If this speaking engagement or technical thing I need  to learn quickly isn’t part of my current set of goals, I just say “no.” Again, focus is key here. If I start to get pulled into too many diretions, I’m of no value to anyone, including myself.

When I talk about “how many people can I reach”, I don’t necessarily mean quantity over quality. What I’m looking for here is, for every “yes” I said, I am actually having to turn down another opportunity. That is one evening that I cannot be speaking at another meetup group. Sure, one new door has opened, but another has just closed. Am I opening the correct one, though?

Suggested Reading: The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker

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