People that achieve a lot are clear on what they give their attention and focus to. Time is your greatest asset. That’s why ‘No’ is a powerful word when it comes to your productivity. Ultimately, if you don’t schedule your priorities, someone else will schedule them for you.
It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. Steve Jobs.
Saying no is hard though. Tom, a high performer, didn’t want to miss an opportunity to learn and he wanted to position himself as being a capable “go getter” ready to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. However, when Tom realised that he was being taken advantage of on a project, he knew he needed to set some boundaries for his involvement in a constructive way. Tom realised that wanting to be liked and included was getting in the way of him being effective in his role.
Do you ever catch yourself wanting to say no, but end up saying yes instead?
The good news is that there are different “flavours” of no from which to choose depending on the situation you’re in. You do have options:
Delegate: “No, it’s not for me, and there someone else I can assign this to who will be able to complete it”. In this case, you know who should perform the work, and ideally you are able to pass the task on. The work still gets done but doesn’t take up a lot of your time.
Deflect: “No, it’s not for me, but I can connect you with someone who can do this for you.” This is for tasks you know aren’t right for you, but you can still offer value by pointing the person in the right direction – without adding one more thing to your do-list.
Discuss: “No, I won’t be able to do that, but I will do this instead.” It’s not always yes or no. You could deliver something in between. You might want to discuss the options you think are better, propose alternatives or negotiate the scope of the task.
Delay: “No, I can’t do it right now, but I may be able to at a future specified or unspecified time.” No can come in the form of “I am too busy right now” or “I believe this can wait,” or a combination of the two. Learning to negotiate deadlines and schedule projects far in advance is especially valuable when your plate is already full and you are starting to feel a sense of overwhelm.
Decline: This is a direct no. “No, I am not going to do this” and there is no reason necessary.
Discard: This can be the hardest of all because it can feel rude, but it’s a necessary tactic in the Information Age.
Bringing it all together
Saying yes to too many things is overwhelming and counterproductive. Discerning what is important and what is not is critical. The most successful people stay on their main game and focus on the things that matter the most to win. Everything else is noise. Learning to say no is an inevitable part of good leadership.
What can you start saying no to, that will give your productivity and results a leg up?