By Ilya Pozin
Saying “no” is tough, especially when you feel like it makes you less valuable.
If you can’t perform the task requested, you’re no longer needed. If you pass up opportunities, you might miss out.
Being needed, especially in business, can provide a sense of purpose you crave in your career. We all like to be the VIP, the one whom colleagues miss when out of the office, the one our team couldn’t have accomplished such an incredible feat without.
But, you aren’t bionic with supernatural abilities. You can’t handle everything at once. Sometimes saying “no” to opportunities is in your best interest so you don’t become overwhelmed and break down.
When It’s Time To Say “No”
If you feel inexplicably anxious about accepting a task, it’s a sign something is wrong. Trust your instincts. Maybe you have too much on your plate and haven’t had any time to recharge recently.
Check your schedule to avoid double-booking yourself or cramming too much into one day. If you notice certain days are filled to the brim, first distribute some of the tasks on your heavy days to your lighter days to balance your week. Then, if you notice a clear opening, pencil it in.
Take inventory of your priorities. How do the tasks you’re saying “yes” to align with your own personal goals and well-being? If you notice that a few of them on your list don’t, set a reminder to politely reject them in the future.
“Yes” Is Great, But You Really Need “No” To Get Anywhere
“Yes” is a powerful word and creates opportunity. When you don’t say “yes,” you may worry you’re closing yourself off to that opportunity. But, keep in mind, there are only so many opportunities you can handle simultaneously. That’s why you need to use “no” occasionally.
“No” creates focus. It allows you to do an excellent job on a couple of projects, instead of being spread so thin you barely complete the several projects you took on. It helps you define what’s important to you so you can achieve key goals without so many disruptions.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything,” Warren Buffett once said.
Wean yourself off of the “yes” habit with these five tips:
1. Define your responsibilities.
When you’re used to being the “yes person,” the lines blur regarding what you’re actually responsible for. Take some time to write down the tasks you are responsible for in your role, and notice which tasks you take on that might fall into someone else’s territory.
Break down your “silo” mentality, and ask others who share responsibilities with you to partner with you. Divide responsibilities fairly, and communicate them clearly.
2. Don’t wait until you’re overloaded.
Often, “yes people” don’t realize they’ve taken on too much until it’s too late. Minimize that risk by recording tasks into a planner or calendar app you’ll have with you at all times. Don’t accept any tasks without checking your schedule first.
3. Be realistic about time.
Don’t fall into the trap of saying, “I’ll just squeeze this in.” Block off time for personal maintenance like eating, sleeping, and exercising -- and don’t subtract from any of those to try to fit more in your day.
4. Realize when others can’t accept “no,” it’s their problem.
If the person you say “no” to can’t accept it, they might have a problem with drawing their own personal boundaries. Politely explain the responsibilities you already have, your priorities, and though you’d love to help, your other commitments make it impossible at this time.
5. Think about what could happen if you don’t say “no.”
Remember all of the times you completely crashed from trying to take on too much? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Use it as a learning experience to help you remember why saying “yes” too much can create a mess.
Remember, your first commitment is to yourself before anyone else. Successful people know this. “Yes” may give you more opportunities, but saying “no” is the key to nurturing the opportunities that matter.
When do you find it the hardest to say “no?” Share with us below!
About Ilya Pozin:
Serial entrepreneur, writer and investor. Founder of Pluto TV, Open Me, and Coplex. Writer for Forbes and Inc.