Use These 4 Words to Be More Productive in 2018

productivity at work

One day. Then two more. Still silence. This was several years ago when I was working at a large software company. I had sent an email to a colleague, hoping to address an important customer question about an advanced feature. The silent treatment continued. I was busy but I finally figured it out. Can you guess what happened next?

My colleague responded … a whole week later. They had made a mental note to respond to me but then forgot. “Sorry!” This mental note held us both back — stalling work for me and forcing my colleague to revisit an issue that could have been dealt with right away.

Delivering a prompt answer to a query is not just courtesy — it is a fundamental business principle.

Our team at Aha! believes in this deeply. We even have a name for it: Yea or nay now. It is one of the principles of The Responsive Method, our framework for success. The principle is based on the idea that no one likes to wait and everyone hates to be ignored. Makes sense, right?

When requests come in, we quickly evaluate them. We digest the information and respond right away — even if the answer is, “I need to look into this” or “Sorry, I cannot do this right now.”

You should respond to requests quickly for two reasons: one, because you cannot afford to keep revisiting them and two, because the requester cannot afford to wait.

Look, I know that everybody is busy. And I know it can be easy to push a question or request to the side, fully intending to get to it later — only to forget about it completely or remember when it is too late. But this approach is only hurting you and the people you work with.

This is why I encourage everyone to put Yea or nay now into practice. In order to do so, you need to ask yourself a series of questions so you can confidently arrive at a quick response. Each answer leads you to the next question in the decision tree.

Ask yourself the following questions to quickly decide how to respond:

What value does this request bring?
Start by digesting the information and considering its importance — both to your own work and the other person’s priorities. Use a goal-first approach to guide you. Think about it within the context of what you both are trying to accomplish and know that what you value and what they value may be at odds. If the request does not line up, you can respond with your answer right away. Just make sure you explain why. Doing so will build trust and earn you credibility as a decision maker.

Do I need more information to answer?
Next, you should ask yourself if you need more information to answer the question. That might mean asking your colleague for more context, or it might require research on your part. If you do have to look into something on your own, do not leave your teammate hanging — make sure you respond with “let me do some research and get back to you.”

Is this request urgent?
If the request is in line with your goals, then you need to determine the urgency. Does it relate to a task or action that is a priority? Is your response preventing someone from moving forward in their own work? If the answer is “no,” then your response might be, “Yes, but not right now — I will revisit on X day.” Then schedule a time to do so.

No one waits well. So make it a goal to respond to as many requests in a timely manner as you can in 2018. It will be good for you and everyone who depends on you. 

Every so often, you will need to say “no.” Because not every request is critical to the person asking or something you can even help with. And that is okay.

Remember that hearing a solid “no” is far better than wondering if the person’s silence holds the possibility of a “yes.”

How quickly do your co-workers respond to you?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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  1. Bruce Gandy

    Teams are funny things. They either fail or succeed together and I suspect that has as much to do with courtesy and respect as it does talent.

    My father taught me so much. He was an electrical foreman on major construction projects and every summer through college, I worked as an electrician’s apprentice. This post reminds of a huge piece of advice.

    “If your mechanic (the electrician I worked for) sends you back to the trailer for parts or equipment, don’t come back without them. He obviously needs them, or he wouldn’t have sent you for them.”

    And here’s the kicker: If you go back and tell your mechanic you can’t find them: “You’re a dime holding up a dollar.”

    That is, your mechanic makes ten times as much as you. Don’t waste his time because he’ll just have to stop what he’s doing and go find the parts, because he needs them. Do NOT hold up the team.

    The lesson must have taken hold because I also blogged about similar concepts here some time ago: (See bullet #4 in particular.)

    And Brian, I love your posts because I already follow you on LinkedIn.


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