How To Say No: Take Back Control of Your Time

How many times have you said yes to a request in your day and instantly regretted it when you’ve looked at your mammoth to do list?

It’s not a good feeling, right?

Like many people, I want nothing more than to support my colleagues, family and friends in anything they do.

However, a time comes when we need to look out for “numero uno” and be selfish with our own time —this is where we need to learn the power of saying No.

I know many people will be reading this and immediately panicking at the prospect of saying no (I just can’t do it! I hear you scream).

Look at this from a logical standpoint.

Would developing the skill of saying no to the things that do not provide benefit, aren’t of interest or you simply don’t have the capacity for, enable a better quality of life?.

I’ve made countless mistakes in the past of saying yes to everything because I wanted to be seen as the good dependable guy who will try to help everyone.

Yet all that resulted in was me becoming stressed about supporting others with their tasks and not able to focus energy on my own stuff.

We must value our most precious commodity

The one thing that we cannot get enough of, and is most certainly finite in our life, is time.

Times is the most precious commodity that all of us possess.

In saying yes to requests of any kind, you’re investing time into something. So you better make damn sure it’s stuff that you want to do and have capacity to do.

I get it, it’s tough, right? No one wants to be the person that says no. It sucks.

However in always being a ‘yes’ person you’re stealing from yourself. You’re stealing time that you can never get back and could be opening yourself up to a serious case of burnout.

How I feel when I’ve stolen my own time!

It’s a hell yes or no….

A decision making methodology that I’ve been adopting of late is reflecting on how the tasks/requests/decisions that I have make me feel.

When I review them, I ask myself this simple question:

Is this a hell yes or a no?

The caveat to this is that anything which isn’t a hell yes is immediately a no. For example if something is a yes, maybe, meh or alright – they all immediately become a no.

This way of thinking was introduced to me on an episode of the Tim Ferriss show with Derek Sivers.

In this particular episode, Derek shared his approach on how he chooses the projects and requests that he’s constantly bombarded with.

You can explore this approach in more detail over on Derek’s blog post No ‘yes” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no”.

The basic principle is to reflect on the request, project or whatever you have in front of you and assess how it makes you feel.

You need to be in tune with your instincts, listen to your initial feelings and ask, am I feeling a hell yes or a no on this?

Using this method has allowed me to take extreme ownership of where I’m happy to invest my time. It allows me to focus on things that I feel will make me happy and most importantly, manage my energy to make sure that I’m not at risk of burnout.

It comes down to another principle that I use in my day job when creating content strategies.

It’s not about doing more stuff, it’s about doing the right stuff. The stuff that I feel is of value.

Let’s find some balance

Learning the skill of saying no is beneficial in allowing us to not only design a life that makes us happy, but also living with intent.

Taking ownership of our schedules, choosing where to invest our time and basically doing stuff that interests us, will go a great way in supporting our ability to do good work.

You have to say no more, so that you can say yes to the things you really care about and want to do.

Of course you should apply this to how best fits your current situation.

If you’re starting something new and in the building process than you might have to say yes to more stuff to support this.

You need to reflect on where you’re investing your time. Is it best placed on those things? Really consider what you should be saying no to so you can be free to do the things you want to do.

So what’s the takeaway from this post?

Next time you’re asked if you can do x,y,z, think about if you have and are willing to invest the time/capacity.

Will saying yes impact on what you need to achieve?

Telling someone no is always a difficult thing. But mastering this and enabling yourself to manage your most precious commodity of time is a valuable skill we all need.

Before you go… 👋

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