Time Management: Saying ‘NO’

How often have you heard yourself saying “I’d love to … but I have this thing I’m supposed to do”? It seems so hard to say no to others’ requests, even when we’re so busy ourselves. Turning someone down doesn’t feel right, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the polite thing to do. However, when we master the art of saying no, it’s entirely liberating and self-fulfilling. It doesn’t mean we’ve become heartless, narcissistic brutes, it simply means we know how to best manage our time, and we’re confident about knowing our priorities and our limits. Mastering your time management can drastically improve your own happiness, so what are you waiting for?

Why is saying no so difficult?

People like to be liked. Many of us are raised to be compliant, people-pleasers, and before we know it, we’ve spent a large portion of our lives working at making others happy, often putting ourselves last. Not surprisingly, it’s been found that people with low self-confidence struggle the most with saying no out of fear of being yelled at, criticized or rejected. When our self-esteem is low, it’s simply easier to say yes to people’s requests; at least that way we know we are needed or even better: valued.

Breaking the habit

Learning how to say no isn’t always easy, but it’s essential for our well-being. When we over-commit to doing too much for others, there are health and other personal implications to consider. When we are stressed out we pay for it physically, often experiencing: lower immunity, aches, pains, high blood pressure, alcohol or drug abuse, sleep deprivation and more. Our personal or family lives usually suffer as well, and we start to feel resentful about how little time we spend at home with the people we love. It’s hard to work towards achieving our own goals if we’re always engrossed in other people’s priorities.

No = Go

When we say no to the things we can’t or just don’t want to do, it gives us the green light to free up time for other things. The next time someone asks for another ‘quick’ meeting, help with their child’s math assignment, or an invite to dinner on your only day off, these are some of the questions we need to ask before giving our answer.

  • Is this aligned with my goals and the direction I’m headed?
  • Does this request make me happy and will I be glad I participated?
  • Is this a distraction that’s pulling me away from what I really need to be doing?
  • Is it productive? For example, if it’s yet another ineffective work meeting that drags on, what are the options for cutting back, or re-working them into something more efficient?
  • Is this someone who’s important to me and it’s a genuine request for help that I want to be involved with?
  • Am I being taken advantage of?

By answering these questions, we gain confidence in our decision, and we’ll also be able to pinpoint the exact issue to raise if we’d like to offer them our reasoning. It’s unfortunate that we sometimes feel compelled to come up with a grandiose excuse for getting out of doing something, but the reality is that there’s no explanation needed other than the truth.

Saying no with dignity

As I mentioned, saying no can be so liberating, but for such a tiny word, it sure is hard to get out sometimes. These tips will help:

  1. Get straight to the point. No need for long-winded excuses. No one needs to hear about your 11 other commitments or your head cold symptoms. Just a simple “No I’m not able” is all that’s needed, with perhaps a light explanation such as your current workload, need for downtime, etc.
  2. Stay focused on the request. It’s not about the person, it’s about the task they’ve asked you to do. It’s not personal, it’s a matter of time management and your personal goals and wellness.
  3. Stay strong. If there’s an intense reaction to your ‘no’, don’t be tempted to cave in. If a compromise might work for you, you can consider one, but the more you give in, the more will be asked of you.
  4. If in doubt, wait it out. Ask how long you have before an answer is due, and be sure to weigh the pros and cons.

Finally, it’s always important to stay true to ourselves and trust that little voice inside that tells us when something feels right. If we’re letting someone down with no notice because we binge-watched Netflix all weekend and are now too pressed for time, that’s not cool. However, when we say no to someone because it feels right for us, that is definitely alright. In fact, it’s our green light to gaining not just more time, but more happiness and success.

 “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet