Productivity and GTD

Why You Should Say No More Often, and How to Do So

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"It's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that really matter." ~ Scott Belsky
Saying no

On many occasions, not knowing how to say no can be one of the greatest enemies of your personal productivity.

This happens to all of us to a greater or lesser extent. Putting the satisfaction of other people above yours is very good, even admirable if you do it deliberately and voluntarily for the right reasons. However, it is not that great when you unconsciously and gradually stop living your life to live the others’.

When you are incapable of saying no the enough amount of times, you end up getting to a situation where you have too many thing to do, but most of them don’t have real value for you and your life. In extreme cases, this can lead up to a feeling of emptiness and a level of stress than is as high as unnecessary.

But, why do we do this? There are several reasons, and even if some of them might seem reasonable and altruistic, they are mainly wrong:

  • We want to help: We confuse supposedly good behaviors with other supposedly negative ones. It seems that refusing to do something is rude and selfish, while accepting to do so is an act of kindness, generosity and empathy.
  • Fear of rejection: We want to be liked and not to be left out.
  • Respect to others: Sometimes we just consider that that person doesn’t deserve a no for an answer.
  • Fear of confrontation: We want to avoid conflicts and keep a good environment. We don’t want a relationship to suffer as a result of a negative response.
  • Sense of guilt: We often don’t feel good after saying no. We are constantly blaming and punishing ourselves for that decision, even if it was perfectly reasonable.
  • Fear of losing opportunities: We feel like, by saying no now, they won’t offer us other things that we do like in the future.

Well, it’s not about saying no to everything, but you shouldn’t do what doesn’t bring you anything. That hurts you, literally. How can you deal with this situations? Think about this things when someone asks you to do something:

  1. You must be clear about your commitments, know yourself and act with integrity. Put your priorities, projects and personal interests above anything else. If what they propose to you has nothing to do with them, just say no to it.
  2. Value your time. Saying no to something allows you to say yes to a ton of other things that you really care about. If you show others that you value your work, your time, and your priorities, contrary to what you think, they will respect you for it.
  3. If you accept everything you are asked, you are not yourself, you do not evolve as a person, you do not improve.
  4. If after a refusal, your relationship with a person deteriorates, it was not a sincere relationship, but an interested one. Don’t let others blackmail you. In addition, think that someone who appreciates you would never ask you something that would harm you.
  5. You can be generous, but avoid abuse. If what they are asking you is abusive, try to negotiate more fair conditions to accept it, or leave it.
  6. If you aren’t sure, delay the decision, and tell them you need to think about it. Then look for solid arguments for accepting the request. If you don’t find any, reject it.
  7. When you say no, do it politely but firmly. Show that you care about their feelings and opinions. By setting the boundaries from the beginning and expressing what you do not like, you will gain their respect.
  8. Don’t make up excuses. If you do, the situation will be repeated constantly. You don’t even have to give explanations. You are the owner of your time.
  9. Before accepting something, think about the implications. How much time will you need? How will it affect your professional, personal, and family life? What will be the cost? What other projects are you going to have to sacrifice?

In short, learn to be assertive, to value your life, and always look for relationships with good fundamentals.

Learning how to say no is a great favor you can do to yourself. You’ll reduce your work overload and your level of stress, and you’ll have time to do what really matters to you. And the best way to learn how to say no is to practice so, go ahead, don’t be shy!

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