When is the last time you turned down a request from a colleague, boss, or friend? Can you remember?
I’m willing to bet that you had to think pretty hard to come up with an answer.
Okay, next question: When is the last time you said “yes” to a request from a colleague, boss, or friend? Yesterday? Today? 10 minutes ago?
Most of us live in a society of “Yes.”
We live in a culture where “Yes, I’ll take on that extra project.” “Sure, I’d be happy to volunteer for parent night.” and “Okay, I can stay for the late shift.” are merely expected answers.
And what’s more, if we muster the courage to say “No,” that familiar feeling of guilt quickly sinks in.
I know, I hear you. Saying no is often challenging and uncomfortable. We worry about disappointing a loved one. We’re concerned about looking incapable or weak. And we fear that we’ll come across as unfriendly, unhelpful, and perhaps worst of all, selfish.
Yep, I struggle with these concerns, too.
How to Increase Your Productivity By Saying No
Recently, however, I read a quotation from the book Present Over Perfect, which shifted my mindset and helped quiet my constant need to please. Those wise words were:
You can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.
If you’re anything like me, this statement made you stop for a moment. And I encourage you to pause a minute longer and think carefully about what these words mean to you.You can’t have yes without no ~Present Over Perfect https://amzn.to/2JmaB70 #present #sayno #selfcare Click To Tweet
To me, every additional yes means saying no to the projects about which I’m genuinely passionate. It means saying no time with family and friends. It means saying no to carefree adventures with my husband, Ryan. And it means saying no to self-care and rest.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when we only say yes, when we spread ourselves too thin, and when we convince ourselves that we’re more productive when multitasking, we push ourselves to burnout. Our work often suffers, and we rarely get to focus on the topics about which we care most deeply.
Increase Your Productivity By Saying No
This behavior needs to change, people. If you need a permission slip, here it is:
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to take time to do what lights you up inside. And it’s okay to protect your valuable hours each day so you can spend it with those you love.It's okay to say no. It's okay to take time to do what lights you up inside. And it's okay to protect your valuable hours each day so you can spend it with those you love. #productivity #sayno Click To Tweet
When to Say No
So how do you know when to say no? Believe it or not, this is the fun part. It’s time to make a list.
Take a piece of paper (or use my free worksheet) and divide it into four quadrants. Next, label each quadrant: Career, Relationships, Personal, Spiritual (broadly defined – spiritual may be religious, it may not.)
Finally, write down the three most essential items in each of these categories. As you make your lists, consider: What are the things that get me excited? Which items will help me achieve my long-term goals? What are the things that bring my life joy and fulfillment?
Now that you have your list, strive to keep it at the forefront of your mind. Carry it around in your bullet journal, stick it in your purse, take a picture of it and use it as your phone’s screensaver, etc.
By having this list accessible at all times, you have a constant guide that helps you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to future requests.
If someone asks you: “Hey, would you want to join this club with me? It meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening.”
You can turn to your list and ask yourself: “Does this project help advance my personal, career, relationship, or spiritual goals? Does it align with the essential items on my list? Do I want to do this?
If the answer is no, I urge you to decline politely.
How to Say No Graciously
And this brings me to my next point. How do we say no?
I get it. Saying “no” can feel uncomfortable at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, there are ways to graciously say no that still manages to demonstrate your support and interest in the person’s request. What’s more, it only takes three simple steps.
- Sincerely thank the person for thinking of you and reaching out, and then acknowledge the importance of their request.
- Explain that while you would love to help, you’re currently dedicating your time to XYZ.
- Tell them you would like to help in another way. Then, either make them an offer that you *ARE* willing to do, or suggest another colleague, business, or an alternative solution that can solve their problem instead.
Let’s do a few examples, shall we?
Colleague: Hey, Karen! I just had this great idea for a new project, and I thought you would be the perfect partner. Here are all the details <blah, blah, blah…>
You <inner monologue>: Hm, does this project benefit one of my three career objectives? No. Does it strengthen anything in the relationship, personal, or spiritual categories? No, it doesn’t.
You <aloud>: Thank you for thinking of me! I appreciate it. It sounds like an exciting project. At the moment, however, I’m concentrating my energies on XYZ. I’m incredibly excited about finishing this project, and I want to give it all I got. Please keep me updated about the process, however. I would love to hear how it’s going. Also, have you thought about asking Teresa to join the team? She is so talented with XYZ, and I think she would add a lot to the project.
Colleague: Of course! I’ll keep you posted. And thanks for suggesting Teresa. I hadn’t thought of her, but you’re right; she’ll be a great fit.
Friend: Hey, Cassie! I just joined this incredible environmental club that meets Wednesday and Sunday evenings from 7-9 p.m. The people are incredible, and we are doing SO much to reduce the waste of plastic throughout our state.
You <inner monologue>: I love the message and purpose of this club, but would my involvement strengthen any of the top items in my four categories? No, it wouldn’t.
You <aloud>: Wow, that sounds like an incredible cause, and I can see why you’re so passionate about it! At the moment, however, my evenings are a quiet time with my husband and kids, and I’m working on putting that first. Is there an email newsletter or a Facebook group that I could join? I would love to keep up with the latest news and events. Then, if an opportunity to volunteer comes up that works with my family’s schedule, I could help out!
See? It’s not that bad, is it?
Alright, my friends. You’re now equipped with the knowledge of why, when, and how to graciously say no. Keep these tips at the forefront of your mind. Then, start exercising your new skill, and increase your productivity today!
Want some extra guidance? Then be sure to download my free 2-page worksheet! It walks you through the steps to highlight your top objectives, and it also offers an easy “mad-libs style” outline of how to say no with grace. Get it here now!
Do you struggle with saying no? What strategies do you use to turn down an offer politely? Let me know below!