How often do you say “no”? If you are like many people, I am guessing that the answer is “hardly ever.”  You don’t want to let anyone down. You want to be liked. You want to be a team player. Sound familiar? Whatever the reason, by saying yes to everything, you are saying no to the important things in your personal and professional life. I am slowly learning to say ‘no’.

Last week, I spoke to a group of entrepreneurs at Manchester Community College. One of the points that I focused on was saying no and I was first to admit that it is extremely difficult, but I’m learning. The next time that you are asked to join a board, take on a project or accept a new client, ask yourself this: “Do you really need it, do you really want it and how is it going to affect your job performance.” A very talented entrepreneur Kyle Reyes, President of The Silent Partner Marketing, recently said that to me, and I now ask myself that every day. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Below are some other tips that have been helping me say no and stay productive.

What’s On Your Plate?
Take a look at your commitments. What boards are you on? What do you volunteer for? If you are not enjoying it, take it off our plate.  Don’t commit to something  because you feel that you have to. Commit to it because you want to.

Leave Your Calendar Open
Don’t overbook yourself. Leave dates open on your calendar. There is something to be said about having nothing on your schedule. Say “no” to the lunch and dinner dates that are not productive.

Give it 24 Hours
Take a day to really think about what you are saying “yes” to. This isn’t the case all of the time, but if you are uncertain about something, let it sit for 24 hours.

Just Say It
When you decide to say “no”, you don’t need to come up with a ton of excuses. Be appreciative, sincere and get to the point. Below are some examples of what to say:

  • “That won’t work for me right now — but I’ll get back to you if anything changes.”
  • “I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.”
  • “Thank you for thinking of me, but I am so busy right now that I won’t be able to give you the attention you deserve.”

It’s Okay
I am still learning that saying “no” is okay.  It’s hard, very hard. Remember, if you say yes to everything, you are living by the agenda of others and not your own. When you say “no” to certain things you will be less stressed, overwhelmed and much more productive.

Do you struggle with taking on more than you can handle?How have you learned to avoid over-commitment? I would love to hear from you!