The most powerful time management strategy you have is the power of saying no.
One of the things many entrepreneurs struggle with is knowing when to say no. You want to serve everybody. You want to please other people. You don’t know what to say yes to and what to say no to, especially as you are building your business because you worry about missing out on a great idea or great opportunity.
When you finally take back your power to say no, you reduce some of the overwhelm you are feeling. You give yourself time back because you can say no to the things that don’t align to what you are trying to achieve in your life. When you say no, you get back some time for yourself, for your family, for your health. It reduces your stress levels. It gives you more time and more freedom to do the things that move your business forward. It allows you to do the things that are truly important. When you say no more often, while saying yes only to the things that make sense, that’s when you release yourself from this burden of feeling like you have to please other people all the time. It gives you the time and freedom to do what matters to you and be the person you want to be.
If you have kids at home, watch them. This comes very naturally to them. They know what they want and they are just relentless in going for it. For me it often creates a power struggle in my house to get things done because my girls are always saying no. They are extraordinarily strong in their sense of self, in what they want, in what’s important to them. Which means they say no a lot!
There are some clear situations when you absolutely should say no:
· When you are stressed or overwhelmed
· When you are already overbooked and doing too much
· When you are sick or tired and physically need a break
· When you feel taken advantage of – you are always helping with no reciprocation
More often you are probably going to come across the situations where you should say no, but you often don’t. These situations could look like:
· Helping someone out when it’s not your issue or problem
· When it’s something you don’t really want to do
· When you have something you would much rather do
· If it will take away from your values, vision, or desires
· When you need (and deserve) some time for you
Saying no is not just about refusing to take on new things. You might also need to go back and say no to some of the things you already said yes to, the things that are not aligned with your long-term vision or with your purpose. This is why having a clear vision and purpose are so important. They become your guide stones and point you in the right direction through the lens of knowing what’s important to you.
I used to be terrible at saying no, particularly if it was someone above me in an organization or a client who was asking for something. One of the things I learned the hard way was that people will take advantage of you saying for as long as you let that happen. As soon as I set and communicated boundaries for myself, people started to respect them. If you have no boundaries, you can’t expect other people to respect your time and energy.
What are some of the things in your life that you need to say no to? What stops you from saying “no” to those things? For many of us it is guilt. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much you can do. It is all about choices. When you say no to something, I want you to think about it as you are saying yes to the things you need. Reframe it for yourself. You are valuing and giving power to your own goals, needs, wants, and time. This isn’t being selfish. It is about know what you want to achieve or what you value and intentionally saying yes to those things.
A key strategy to lose the guilt is to know your priorities. Understanding what you want and need allows you to say yes to the things that align and no to the things that don’t (most of the time). Think about what is most important to you in your life. How do you want to spend more of your time? What are the top priorities you have this year, this month, this week? What are the top 3 priorities you have right now? Are you meeting them? If not, there are probably things that you need to say no to in order for you to create the time and energy you need in order to achieve YOUR top priorities.
This is my most powerful time management tool because the more that you can no to the things that don’t align to your top priorities, the more you can say yes to the things that do. Time management is not about getting more done. It’s about getting more of the RIGHT things done. This is about consciously making choices based on your evaluation of each situation as it comes up.
When you know that saying no is the right answer for you, say it nicely but assertively and with confidence. Don’t leave people feeling like you are wavering on your stance or they will keep pressing you for the yes that they want. Stating your decision with conviction will leave you feeling strong. It will leave you feeling good about yourself, even if you have a little guilt about letting someone else down, you will feel good knowing that you have made the right decision for you.
By saying no to others, it also comes with responsibility to follow through on the priorities or commitments you make to yourself. You now have to do the things that you committed were priorities for you. Sometimes this IS the barrier within you that has you saying yes, when you know you should be saying no. Where I see this happen a lot is in women (and especially moms) who are building businesses or their careers. Family time, personal care, hobbies, health and fitness (the things that are about you) all get deprioritized as you say yes to helping everyone else. You need to make sure you have enough time for the things you need to recharge, to rest, and to feel fulfilled. You need to prioritize YOU.
My challenge for you today is to think of a situation or a person that you need to say no to. Next, decide on the action you will take and make a commitment to yourself. What steps do you need to take to protect your time better, so that you have the space and energy to do the things that move you closer to your own ideal business and life?