Sometimes it seems like our times isn't our own. We get requests for our time every hour of every day. People want to meet up, they want to call or schedule a meeting,... If we would say yes to everything that comes our way, we wouldn't be as productive as we want to be. Spreading yourself too thin causes stress and anxiety. I mean, when are you gonna get everything done? So when you want to be more productive, reduce stress and anxiety, you have to learn the subtle art of saying "no".
"But, what's so hard about saying no?" I hear you ask. Well, for starters it can upset, disappoint and anger the person you are saying it too and you don't want to do that. On top of that, you most likely want to keep having a good relationship with that person and saying "no" the wrong way, can jeopardise that.
However, saying no to someone doesn't necessarily have to mean the end of the relationship. Here's a quick guide on the subtle art of saying no.
1. Know your priorities
Saying no is a lot easier if you know that this new task doesn't fit in your schedule. And even if you do have a little bit of time to spare (which for most of us is rare), do you really want to spend it on this new commitment?
For example, your close friend asks you to babysit her child that weekend. You'll most likely say yes, because she's your friend and you love her. But when a neighbour asks if you can help them mow their lawn, you know that means less time for yourself and your friends. So, you'll probably want to say no.
But priorities are different for everyone, so you have to set them for yourself. If work is your priority, you'll want to say yes to that co-worker. There is no right or wrong here, it's all about knowing your goals and knowing what you need to do to get there.
2. Be assertive, B E assertive
It's important to be polite, but being nice and always saying yes isn't so nice for yourself. By setting clear boundaries for yourself and your time it's harder for people to take advantage of you (and your tendency of saying yes).
A tip for showing them your time is precious and well guarded is sharing your calendar with your colleagues. That way to don't have to say no directly to their face, but they will still know you don't have time to take on extra tasks.
3. "Let me get back to you on that"
When you get a great opportunity you don't have time for at the moment, you can let them know you are interested by telling them you'll get to them. That way you can buy yourself some extra time to finish your current projects and they'll still know you are interested.
"Let me get back to you on that." will be your new favourite sentence.
4. Don't apologise
We tend to say we're sorry when telling someone no. We do this, because in our heads it sounds more polite, but all you're doing is you're making it sound weaker. Your time is precious and you got to be firm and unapologetic about guarding it.
You have every right to say no and you don't have to feel sorry for it.
5. Pre-empting is your new best friend
When you have the feeling that a co-worker is going to ask you for a favour - perhaps during a team meeting - you really don't have time for just tell everyone at the beginning of the meeting this:
"Look everyone, I'm just letting you know I've got a very busy week ahead of myself filled with a lot of projects. So I won't have any time to take on any new projects."
That way everyone in that meeting will know not to ask you for any favours. Of course you can only do this when you've been working there for a while and you know your colleagues. But once you get the hang of it, this sentence will save your life (and time).
The bottom line
At the end of the day saying no is something no one really likes to do. And it certainly isn't an easy thing to do, but once you've mastered it, you'll slowly start to see the difference. You'll have more time for the things you really want to do and that matter to you.
Remember that practice makes perfect and that saying no isn't about being mean. It's about doing what's right for you. In a way it's actually even self care.