You’d think such a short word would be easy to say, but saying no is hard! If you can’t say no, or if you’re not very good at saying it, or you can say it but you absolutely HATE it, you need to read this short post all the way to the end.
I like being the guy who says, “Sure, I’ll help!” I love providing great service to people, and I really don’t like to let people down. So I used to say yes…a lot. Every open moment on my calendar basically became first come/first served. Wanna grab coffee? SURE! Need a volunteer at Church? I’m your guy! A coach for soccer? I don’t know the first thing about soccer, but why not!
And, oh yeah, I also had a business and a family that both wanted my attention, too.
Along the way I discovered something about myself: I need a lot of down/free time in order to maintain high levels of creativity, energy, and focus. I was not born with an unlimited supply of these items and when my calendar is packed full, they get (and stay) depleted quickly.
I suspect you were not born with unlimited amounts of creativity, energy, and focus either.
You Must Learn How To Say No
You don’t just have to learn how to say no, you have to learn how to say no with confidence. It’s the #1 way to control the flow of your life. It’s like having a magic doorway that YOU control, and it only grants entry to the people, tasks, events, and opportunities that are truly the best use of your time.
Last week I shared how to double your free time to do more of the things you really want to do. I also promised I’d share my thoughts this week on how to say no. So here you go:
1. Block your calendar.
Look at your upcoming week or month and block every spare minute on your calendar. This is counter-intuitive because you’re thinking, “That time is really open.” But it’s not. Until someone takes it, ALL of it belongs to you.
If you do this — and you believe that you OWN all of your open time — when someone asks for some of it, you’ll think more carefully about it. Now you’ll be giving up YOUR time instead of just booking time on an empty calendar.
You can plan specific things to work on during your time or you can just block it with no label whatsoever. Entirely up to you and how you work best.
2. Consult your calendar first, every time.
If you have blocked your time effectively, your calendar becomes your protector. When your time is already spoken for, you can honestly and confidently say “I don’t have time right now”. You might also find yourself taking on less — which is NOT a bad thing — because you’ll start to realize how little time you really have to be amazing at what you do. And you’ll start getting better and better at protecting your time from things that distract you from that.
3. Know what your Kind, Confident No sounds like.
The only way to know what your Kind, Confident No sounds like is to a) craft it and, b) practice it.
If you’re always prepared, you won’t default to saying yes when someone requests your time. You also won’t say “maybe”, which is really just a delayed no 99% of the time.
Time is the only excuse you need. Don’t waste time creating any other story. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the time to do that right now” works in every situation. If you feel like that’s too cold, you can throw in “But have a great time” or “I wish you the best” or “I’ll do the next one” (but only if you mean it).
Many requests you can turn down via email, but you will also have to say no face-to-face sometimes, which is way harder. It is extremely helpful if you’ve heard yourself say it out loud several times. Practice speaking your no until you can say it with confidence and kindness. I find the car is a great place to practice saying things out loud. It’s also a great place to sing Zach Brown Band songs at the top of your lungs.
By the way, the ONLY thing people ever request of you is your time. It doesn’t matter if they’re asking for a report, a product, a meeting, a quick phone call, a volunteer, a service, etc. You may be delivering these “things” to them, but what they’ve taken from you is your time. Every time. And you don’t get it back.
I hope these last two posts help you gain back some your precious time (and creativity and energy and focus). Let me know if they’ve helped, ok?
And if you’ve got a solid way of saying no with confidence, drop it into the comments below. We can all use more examples and inspiration.