Learning to Say No

“No, I’m sorry. I won’t be able to do that for you.” Has it been a while since you’ve said that? Do you always find yourself saying “yes” to things you know you don’t have time for? You might need a refresher course in the ability to say “No.”

In time management, there are two ways to find more time:

1) Do the same amount of tasks more efficiently or

2) Do fewer things

We spend a lot of time focusing on figuring out ways to do #1, that we often forget that #2 is also an option. I’m not suggesting you go to your boss and inform him or her that from now on, in order to reduce your stress level, you will only be completing half of your job description. No, when looking for things to cut out, think of those extra favors that people ask you to do. We feel obligated to say yes to all of these things. We don’t want to let others down and we are afraid of destroying our image as a “super human” who can do it all. However, if you truly need to trim down your schedule in your Time Diet, you need to be better at saying no.

Here is the truth: nobody can do it all. Not even you. With excellent time management skills, you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible, but everyone has their limit. The next time someone asks you to do something “extra” that you know will take more time than you have available, use the following tips to help say No:

How to Say No

1) Be Prompt: When saying No to a favor, tell the person as soon as they ask you. It is tempting to say “maybe” in hopes that more time will magically open up in your schedule. This is not fair to the other person. Telling them No right away lets them know you respect their time and gives them ample opportunity to find another person to help them out.

2) Be Honest: You all know how much I loathe the line “I’m too busy.” If you have to tell someone No, don’t use “I’m too busy” as a reason. Remember, the person asking you a favor is also “busy” just like everyone else in the world. We make time for what is important to us and if this favor were absolutely essential, you would make time for it as well. Instead, say something like, “Adding this to my plate right now would really overload me. I’m going to have to say No to this one.”

3) Be Direct: Say No kindly but firmly and then move on with your life. Don’t continue to fall all over yourself with things like, “I’m so so sorry I couldn’t do that for you, it’s been a really bad time for me” or “any other time you need anything at all from me just ask.” Statements like this make you appear as though you don’t value your own time and are not in control of your own time management decisions.

It is also important to remember that if you say “Yes” to favors that you are realistically able to make time for, it makes saying “No” much easier when you need to. You need to find the balance of being the go-to person people can count on and being the person who values their own time and is selective of their tasks.

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