Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today, I want to talk about time management and the importance of saying “no.”
“No” is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and it’s one of the keys to good time management. It might be odd to think that saying “no” is a skill, since it sounds so simple. But it is a skill. Some people seem to have been born with it. Other people learn it. Either way, it’s a critical ability when it comes to managing a business and managing yourself.
Just to be clear, when I talk about saying “no,” I’m talking generally about not taking on something new. When we do this, we don’t simply say “no” to someone. In fact, we’ve done a two-part series just on how to say “no” the right way! If you want some tips on how to say “no” effectively, those lessons are worth a look. Today, however, I want to focus on why we need to say “no.”
So, what kinds of things am I suggesting you say “no” to? Well, this could be internal initiatives. It could be personal requests from colleagues for help or when they want to delegate something. It could also be paid projects and client work. Pretty much anything new that comes up that will require your time, skills, energy, and other resources.
Now, wait a second, you might be thinking, doesn’t being a good employee, colleague, or businessperson mean saying “yes” in these types of situations? Well, it means saying “yes” to many of these things. Just not all of them. Are your time, skills, energy, and resources infinite? Of course not. So, when I suggest learning to say “no,” I’m simply talking about being mindful of capacity. As we say, you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.
If you tend to feel badly when you turn someone down, then this can be a real challenge. But don’t think of saying “no” as a complete rejection. It doesn’t mean “what you are asking is a bad idea.” Instead, think of saying “no” as saying “not now” or “not me” or “not in this way.” In other words, you’re saying the time, person, or method isn’t right. And this creates space to say “yes” when the time, person, and method are right.
Let’s bring this back to time management for a second. Think about your schedule for the next couple of weeks. How much slack in the system do you have? How much more could you take on?
Now, imagine you agree to help out with a new internal initiative – like writing up a job description. Then imagine you also say “yes” to helping a colleague with less than stellar writing skills finish a big proposal. And you say “yes” to an outside project, whether that’s a new client at work or a side hustle. You’ve just said “yes” to three new things. And now you have to pack these into your already busy schedule.
Here’s my first question about this situation: what happens to the quality of work on all the things you’re currently committed to? Clearly, it’s not going to enhance outcomes on anything you’re working on, because you’re now overcommitted. So all your work suffers, including the things that you already said you’d do.
For this reason, try thinking about saying “no” to the new things as a way of saying “yes” to the things you already have on the go! Saying “yes” and failing to execute is irresponsible. Saying “no” so you can fulfill existing responsibilities is wise.
My second question is this: how do you feel when you get overcommitted? Chances are, you don’t feel happy and fulfilled, but rather frustrated and inadequate. Staying in an overcommitted state for a long time can lead to an even worse condition: burnout. And that’s the ultimate negative outcome when you don’t take self-management seriously.
The ability to say “no” is like a muscle: it gets stronger the more you use it. It can feel very empowering, especially if you’re not naturally adept at it. Here’s the kicker: you’ll likely find that people respect you more when you say “no.” If you value your time, then they will, too.
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon!