How Saying “No” Means You Can Say “Yes” More Often
By: Jessica Myers, CEO
Last week, I said “yes” too much. I said yes to three dinner dates with friends. I said yes to acting as chaperone for my daughter’s field trip to the Historic California Orange Groves. I said yes to a marketing workshop in San Diego (I live 2+ hours away in Palm Springs).
And then come Saturday night when I was exhausted, I said yes to greasy Chinese takeout (Mu Shu pork, orange chicken, and veggie lo mein, if you’re wondering) and a Vampire Diaries marathon on Netflix.
From the outside, it sounds like a fun week. But here’s what I had to say “No” to in order to fit those activities into an already jam-packed work and mom-life schedule:
- Consistently attending B-School to improve my company
- Finishing my latest piece of opt-in content
- Saving money
- Healthy meal choices
- Any restorative “me” time
If I had said “No” to just one or two of those extra activities, I would’ve been able to stick to my goals, but I buckled under the pressure of what I thought was “expected” of me to be a good mom and business owner.
Many of us conflate busYness with running a good business (or a good life). However being too busy and saying “Yes” to too many things communicates one thing VERY clearly (even if it’s not true): you don’t value your own time. And if you don’t value your time, no one else will either.
So how do you get from commitment overload to taking back control of your priorities, time, and schedule?
The first step is learning how to say “No.”
I don’t mean the wishy-washy, excuse heavy, “Wish I could” kind of “No.” I mean the kind, yet firm and direct, “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but it’s not something I’d like to do.” Don’t leave room for argument or badgering.
Saying “No” is tough; it inevitably ruffles feathers. The key to staying strong is remembering that the person asking will smooth them out anywhere within a few minutes to a few days. And if it takes them longer, is that someone you really want to be around or make commitments to anyway?
To prioritize and efficiently organize your schedule and goals, write them down. Start with your number one goal, whether it’s personal or business related (or one of each). Be as specific as you can. Broad, ill-defined goals are impossible to achieve.
List out the tasks you need to complete to accomplish those goals, number them 1-10 from easiest to hardest, and then schedule them (starting with the toughest tasks). As my favorite business mentor Marie Forleo says, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not happening.”
For example, my top personal goal is one hour of daily self-care via meditation, reading, and journaling. I have it scheduled on my calendar every day (including weekends!) at 5 AM. This also means I have to say “No” to one of my primary indulgences: sleeping in.
Finishing your hardest, most essential activities early in the day ensures progress towards your larger goals. The morning is when we have the most energy, focus, and drive--don’t waste it on the inessential.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Scheduling your day to create wins early will boost your confidence and increase your productivity throughout the rest of the day. It also means there’s less chance of getting distracted before you’ve finished your daily “must-dos.”
This leads us to the next section: saying “No” to bad habits and time-sucking activities. The top culprits for most people are hours of television, constantly checking email or social media, and staying up late/sleeping in.
What is the one habit or activity you could say “No” to that would help you achieve your goals faster? My top two “No’s” are sleeping in (see above) and watching more than two hours of tv each day.
Don’t try to get rid of every bad habit at once, either. Honestly evaluate which activities you can stop that will help you achieve your goals, not the ones you think you “should” get rid of. The goal is progress, not perfection.
Fun Fact: If you replace just one hour of daily TV watching with reading a book in your field, you’ll be an expert in seven years.
So, to recap:
- Learn how to say “No” kindly, firmly, and directly to activities, projects, and events you don’t want to do or that will take time away from your top goals and priorities.
- Define your primary goals, and write down, prioritize, and schedule the tasks necessary to accomplish them.
- Identify and say “No” to bad habits and time-wasting activities like hours of tv, mindless email and social media surfing, multi-tasking, etc.
The point of saying “No” isn’t to get rid of your fun and leisure time—it’s to give you more of it while also keeping you on track to accomplish the things that really matter to you. Forget FOMO. Figure out what’s best for you and put yourself first.
The great thing about boundaries and respecting your time is that once you do it, everyone around you will follow your lead. The people who love and respect you won’t think you’re lame for making choices that benefit you most.
We all know there’s a trade-off between what we say “Yes” to and what we have to say “No” to as a result. In business and economic terms, it’s called opportunity cost. Make sure what you say “Yes” to brings you joy and fulfillment, whenever possible. Don’t let outside influences pressure you into commitments you know are irrelevant, counterproductive, or time-wasters. Master the art of “No” so you can say “Yes” to the most important things in your life.