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Learning To Say No!

Aug 17, 2007
Eager to please and to be seen to be helpful, we often take on things we'd rather not do or really don't have time for. Learning to say 'No' can be useful when you're feeling overwhelmed or feel you're taking on too much. It's one of the things that many people say is key to enabling them to use their time more effectively and it's one of the most frequent areas that we work on.

There's one simple word you can use to increase your effectiveness and make you more productive. Just say 'No'.

Saying 'No' can be hard to do, particularly if you've always said 'Yes' in the past and people are used to you doing everything.

- You feel that you 'should' or 'ought' to say 'Yes'.
- You don't want to let people down.
- You want to be helpful.
- You feel guilty if you don't say 'Yes'.

Be clear and direct. When it comes to it, your time is yours and it's your choice as to how you spend it. Don't be misled by other people's expectations - whether that's family, friends, even your boss or work colleagues. It's important to set boundaries so that other people know where they stand. Be realistic about what you are able to achieve. You can't say yes to everything without crumbling under the weight of responsibility, time constraints or the shear volume of work.

When you are in a situation where you are about to say 'Yes', ask yourself two questions:

What are you saying 'Yes' to?
What are you saying 'No' to?

By saying 'Yes' to doing a report by the end of the day, you are saying 'No' to finishing work on time.

By saying 'Yes' to taking on a piece of additional work or participating in a new project, you are saying 'No' to having time for yourself. You're saying 'No' to spending more time with your children/partner/friends.

What stops you from saying 'No'? What do you get by saying 'Yes'? There must be some pay-off for you to say 'Yes'. What is it? Recognition, respect, affirmation ... at what cost?

Is there someone else that can do it? Can you talk to the person making the request and negotiate to suit your timeframe - particularly if this happens in a work environment?

"I can't do that report today but I could do it tomorrow or next week."
"I don't have time to talk to you now but can I call you later today ... tomorrow"

It might feel uncomfortable saying 'No' to start with because you'd not used to saying it. How about saying, 'I'll think about it' instead? This will give you a chance to decide if this is something you want to take on or something you want to do. Remember, it's your time, it's your choice how you spend it.

Try it this month. Make a game of it. How many times can you say 'No', before saying 'Yes'? Don't say 'Yes' until you've at least had a chance to think about what you're saying 'Yes' to and what it means to you. You can still say 'Yes'. I just want you to actually say 'No' first.

What things do you need to say 'No' to? Think about some different ways that you might be able to say it.

'No, I'm too busy to do that right now'
'No, I don't have my diary with me. Can I get back to you later?'
'No, I'm not interested, thank you!'
'No, I can't do that but perhaps John might be able to help you with that.'

Don't make excuses, there's no need to. Be open, upfront and honest with people, they won't think any less of you for saying 'No' and you won't have to let people down if you say 'Yes' too quickly and then have to say 'No' at a later date.

If this is an important issue for you, you might want to practice it with a friend or colleague so you can get comfortable being able to say 'No'. The more you get used to saying it, the easier it will become and the more in control you'll be of your life and your time.

Copyright 2006: Clare Evans
About the Author
Clare writes on several topics to help busy, stressed individuals and small business owners organise their lives more effectively.

Register for her monthly newsletter at www.clareevans.co.uk and receive free tips on managing your time.
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