Welcome to the World of Saying ‘No’

Talk to The Hand German T-Shirt from Scream Printing
Talk to The Hand German T-Shirt from Scream Printing

It’s hard for me to say no, to good food, to an interesting opportunity, to a suggestion to do something that sounds like fun. Who wants to say ‘No?’ no is negative, ‘Yes’ is positive, and we’re all positive types, right?

The problem is, saying ‘Yes’ to too many things becomes saying ‘No’ to your goals.

One of the things that I liked about my old day job was that there was no shortage of people who would reach out asking for coaching or with some interesting side-project that needed an extra pair of hands. The project or whatever it was, was always ‘urgent’, ‘high profile’ or ‘strategic’. Oooh! Who could say no to that, not me!

Until my boss reminded me that my priority needed to be meeting the objectives that our team had already defined. ‘Welcome to the World of Saying No’ was his mantra. On the one hand, this was great, I felt I had ‘official permission’ to say no to certain people or to things that I actually didn’t want to do (sorry, no can do – boss says I can’t!) but it was hard when there were projects that seemed interesting.

Now that I’m my own boss (Hallelujah!) I find that I have to now continually manage myself to say ‘No.’ This is where having clearly defined scope, aligned to my objectives, helps.

When you clearly identify the things that you’ve committed to, and know they are stepping-stones to accomplishing your goals, you realize that saying ‘no’ can be a re-commitment to doing what you’ve set out to do.

The hardest thing about defining scope is emotional, rather than technical. Deciding whether to use a mind map or a series of lists is a lot easier than deciding what you’re going to say ‘yes’ to and what you’re going to say ‘no’ to.

The reality is that once we define our goals, we have to commit to certain actions and work that are not going to leave room for all of the other interesting and fun things to do that the world will constantly present us with.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible and weigh incoming opportunities, but we have to do it consciously, fully aware of what will be sacrificed in order to take on the new work.

The good news is that keeping your commitments, and the steadily achieving what you’ve set out to do, will help keep you confident and remind you of your progress, even during those not-so-great times when sales are low, you didn’t get that bump in traffic you expected, and you’re wondering if you’re even on the right path.

6 thoughts on “Welcome to the World of Saying ‘No’

  1. Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to say “no” even to some “good” things in life! As a business owner this can be hard and this is a great reminder! Thanx for encouraging this freedom!

  2. Ohh, this is SO true! And the trouble with working for myself is I have to say no to myself!!

    Most of us – as entrepreneurs – come up with more ideas than we can feasibly bring into being… and it’s really hard to say no to yourself – to put off the new and shiny in place of the slightly less-new but vital aspects of running a business.

  3. Saying No has always been a struggle for me. But you as so right that we do have to say no to keep on track for our objectives!

    Thanks for reminding me!

  4. So true! The past few weeks have given me much practice with both defining scope and seeing where to say yes and no in relation to that. Even social events that I need especially now that I am alone so much can be viewed as pro or con in relation to my work.

  5. I have goals I’ve put aside, because I booked too much work. I thought I had calculated my scheduling correctly with the addition of the baby into the mix and boy was I wrong!

    Yet, I’m still getting project offers left and right. It has been very liberating to say “I just can’t do your project right now.” A boost to my ego that I am so busy with work, fitting in another job is just impossible. A personal boost to know I am also turning down jobs to work on things that will get me closer to my personal goals. It’s what is helping me get through the stress I created for myself by saying “Yes!” to almost everything that came my way last year.

    Saying “no” can be very healthy.

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