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.