Learn to Say No: Increase the Power of How You Spend Your Time

learn to say no

How many of us aren’t very good at saying no? I know I often find myself doing things that I don’t really want to do but I say yes from a misguided sense of not wanting to let people down!

Saying no more often is definitely a great way to keep more of your time for the stuff that you need to do, which leads to more time to do what you want to do (to ‘Live More’).

I wonder if we sometimes end up unable to say no as we were brought up being told as a child that no isn’t a good word to use when asked to do something! That works for me when it’s my eight year old that we’re talking about but by now I think I should be getting better at saying no – obviously in the right way! 

So, shall we agree that saying no more often can give you back some POWER to Live More and will help you to:

  • Reduce Your Stress – Saying no when you’re not used to doing so may be a little bit more stressful than just saying yes but once you’ve done it a few times it will get easier. And the result of not overscheduling your time will be to reduced stress and more freedom (and less potential guilt!).
  • Be Perceived as More Professional – Being less available can help you to appear more professional, and more ‘in demand’! As you may know I use TimeTrade to book meetings into my diary and I often get comments about how professional that makes me appear. I’m sure that’s also sometimes related to there being a scarcity of time showing in my calendar, not just that I’m using nifty technology.
  • Improve at Tasks You Really Want to Do – By not saying yes to some things you will get more time to do other things, which may give you more chance to practise and improve those. For example, if I gain 30 minutes a day by saying no to a few more things that I don’t want to do and spend them singing, hopefully my singing will improve 😉
  • Spend Time ‘Living More’ – By saying no to things you don’t want or need to do, you get to do the things you want to do to ‘Live More’ that make you feel good! If you really want to spend more time writing or helping your clients solve their problems, say no to doing things you don’t want to do and recommend someone else.
  • Be More Respected – Whilst doing things for other people all the time is very helpful. It can also help people to think that you’re a bit of a doormat – ‘good old Jo, will always do what you ask’…  Even nice people take advantage of those who say yes all the time. Have you noticed how it’s always the same people ‘volunteering’ to do stuff in your groups?
  • Have More Opportunity to Say Yes – This may sound counter-intuitive but it’s true. If you create more time in your life by saying no, then you can use that time to say yes more often to the stuff that you want to do. How many times have you said you’d do something just to be helpful even though it wouldn’t be your first choice of an activity and then not been able to do something you’d really like to do?
  • Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew – People who say yes to everything often end up not doing tasks to the best of their ability. They don’t mean to, but they get too much on their plate and end up not being able to do the tasks they agreed to do properly, to give them any chance of getting everything done. Or worse, they burnout and get ill and then have to drop the rest of what they’ve agreed to do anyway!

In order to say no comfortably when someone asks you to do something, even if it’s something you know immediately that you do want to do, make it a practice to take a pause, take a breath, and then check your calendar. Taking the time to check your calendar can give you time to give some thought to whether or not you want to say yes or no.

Saying no can really give you back time to ‘Live More’ and do the things that you really want to do, not just the stuff that you have to do or that you feel that you should do. Take time to practise saying no (in the right way, obviously!). Keep this in mind and make sure that you really consider what you’re agreeing to do and that you say no sometimes. And then make sure you use that extra time to do something worthwhile for yourself (maybe even work out a number of hours that you’ve gained back so you can really make the most of it).

When have you not said no when you should have? 

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About the Author

I work with business owners and leaders to improve their wellbeing, in these days of overwhelm, whether that be physical, mental or digital, using my POWER to Live More 5 Fundamentals of Simplify, Systemise, Share, Self Care and Sustain. I also work with business leaders to help them to improve their organisational employee engagement and wellbeing. I believe they are interlinked in a lovely virtuous circle.

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