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Saying No


The blog has been on a break for a bit – more like me taking a break from blogging. I have been working on some other stuff (announcements soon) and I am also restructuring how I will create and deliver this blog.

Each of us have different aspects of our lives that matter to us – family, friends, romance, career, job (sometimes different from career), education, mind, hobbies, health, fun, financial, spiritual, etc. Balancing all of that is difficult if not impossible. The key I have found to focusing on the things that matter most is saying no, a lot.

No is hard to say, especially in today’s world. Our interconnections let us see all the different opportunities open to us, and also let us see people who seem to be doing and/or having it all. Fear of missing out (FOMO), a belief that a little more work will get us to our goals, and a desire to support others can all pile up to fill our plates to overflowing.

In turn, that can lead to us feeling burdened or cause us to unintentionally drop things. Since none of us still can be in two places at once, we also miss out on things on a pretty routine basis. We get to no, but we don’t get there willingly.

Many of my coaching clients feel overwhelmed, often talking about the number of emails they receive each day or the many meetings they have to attend. In answer to the question “what can I do when I have 3 meeting at once?” the only rational answer is “only go to one.” If you get too many emails to read, figure out which ones are most important (or are from the most important people) and only read those. In their personal lives, my coaching clients also have many demands on their time and wonder what to do about it. I ask questions like “what would happen if you did not do that?” or “how would you feel if you said no to doing that?” It’s funny, but many clients realize that just saying no is an option they have not considered.

It’s OK not to do it all or have it all. It’s OK to say no.

So how do you do this? One way is to envision your future if you do something or if you don’t do that thing. Will it matter in a year either way? What about in a month or even a week? If it won’t really matter, maybe no is the right response.

Not right now is another acceptable answer. I remember one time at work being asked to respond to a program action – something fairly complicated that had to be done by the end of the day. I told the requester that I just could not do it – in fact, I actually said “I give up, you have broken me, I quit.” After talking about it for a bit, he said “well, when could you have this completed?” I answered honestly that it would take a week but that it would also be a better answer. When he said OK, I could not believe it. I had the power to say not right now all along, I just had not been using it. Things changed a lot for me after that.

Look, I know that I am telling you something that you already know. I also am pretty sure you are not saying no nearly enough.

What can you say no to this week that won’t matter in a year but will matter right now by taking something off your mind? Go make that happen.

Tom