It’s time to start saying ‘No’ more often!

  photo by smlp.co.uk

I had a crazy week this past week, a lot of late nights and not enough downtime…but it’s my fault due to poor planning.  It was the cumulative pile-up of too many things going on at once, all of them important, but not necessarily urgent (other than I had piled up too many commitments).

I forgot the lesson that not only is it alright to say ‘No’, it’s something I should consciously be doing all the time and doing more of!

Saying ‘No’ is one of your most powerful tools when it comes to getting things done and to clarifying your direction.  When it comes to getting things done, the impact is pretty obvious – you only have 24 hours in the day and most of us have way more than 24 hours worth of stuff that we could do (or would like to do) including things like sleeping, eating, hanging out with family, friends, getting work done and hopefully working ON the business as well.

In other words, you are saying ‘No’ whether you realize it or not.  Those 5, 10, 20 things on the bottom of your to do list that keep getting pushed out to future dates?  That’s you inadvertently saying ‘No’ because you couldn’t find enough time to do them right now. 

The late night wrapping up a proposal or a presentation or some important work for a client?  That’s you saying ‘No’ to your family, regular exercise or just sleeping!

Along the same lines, a few well placed ‘Nos’ can really help you clarify your overall direction and what’s important.  Most of the time people think about what they do, but it can be equally important to be clear about what you don’t do.

What kinds of clients are not a good fit for you?  (People you should be saying ‘No’ to?).  Are there jobs or opportunities that might be lucrative but not really helpful in moving you forward on your ideal path?  Blocking off all of the things that you don’t do can really help to clarify what your direction is.

A better way?

If you’re convinced that saying ‘No’ will help you out, there are a couple of things to think about if you want to do it effectively:

  1. Take some time to really be clear on what it is that you want (what’s your Primary Aim?)
  2. Schedule some time on a regular basis (weekly?  maybe monthly) to take a good hard look at where you’re spending your time and pick out the things that don’t line up with your most important priorities.  You may be stuck in the short term if it’s a commitment that would be painful to get out of, but use that as a lesson to avoid more of the same going forward.

What should you be saying ‘No’ to with your business (and your life)?  Are there things your doing that might be making you money but you hate doing?  Are there clients who drain the life out of you?  Share your thoughts on saying ‘No’ in the comments below – I’d love to hear them.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “It’s time to start saying ‘No’ more often!”

  1. It is true that most of the time it's ourselves who create the problem. Yet, sometimes you don't need to be as brusque as a definitive “No”. It often solves the problem to say “Yes, but”.

    A client wants too much too quickly. “Yes, but I can start only next week.”
    A client criticizes your price as too high. “Yes, but did you notice the price includes background research and proofreading, too?”

    And so on.

    It's actually a fun exercise to try to respond to questions, demands and even criticism without using the word No at all. Usually, there's a way round it. Afterwards, everyone is left in a positive frame of mind even if the result wasn't quite what they wanted.

  2. skinkade says:

    Kimmo – great point about not getting locked into a negative approach. I agree it's critical to always be thinking 'Yes' and if the situation warrants it, your suggestion about 'Yes, but…' is a great way to go.

    I'm curious how you handle a situation that's not something you do? What would you do if a client asked for graphic design help rather than copywriting? (extreme example I know, but I do think there are times when you'll be hit up to do something that's not a fit).

    Thanks for jumping in!

    Shawn

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