Eric Krueger

Saying "No"

To sustain your effectiveness and well-being over time (both professionally, and personally), it’s essential to learn the art of turning people down.

This quote from the Harvard Business Review is good inspiration for learning this skill:

If I had a completely free day or week, with no tasks to check off my list, how would I spend the time? Is there something I enjoyed in the past that I’m no longer doing now because I’m too busy? Are there people I don’t see enough of, and would love to?

There are two primary reasons why this is important.

1. It Can be Hurtful to Yourself / Your Work Not To.

At work, your manager (and their manager, etc.) want to know what sort of capacity your team has. It's important for planning, budgeting, and resource allocation purposes. Taking on more than you can handle (i) hurts you in the long-run (more stress), (ii) isn't typically sustainable, and (iii) at work, gives the business an unrealistic idea of your (and your teams) capacity. This is the first counter-intuitive point in saying no: it's important for your personal well being, your long term success, and the success of your work that you do so.

2. Unnecessary Participation

You might not need to be involved in that meeting, or that project. Saying no saves you time and stress from unnecessary involvement in areas where you're not actually needed. Clarifying your role in the meeting/project is also a great way to ensure a meeting ***is* productive** - as you can come prepared and/or make sure that other key stakeholders are present too.

How Do You Do It?

You can start by using time blocking to get a better picture of your true availability. Most of us suffer from the planning fallacy, and proactively blocking out your time will start to right-size your expectations and give you a better picture of your bandwidth.

Identify the things that you should say no to. If it isn't obvious to you what these things are, you can use Mendelow's Matrix for internal stakeholders to help inform your engagement level. Also, ask yourself a few questions:

Then, practice. Start with low-stakes asks from your coworkers/friends and small side projects that you typically participate in out of courtesy. Make it not about you (i.e - "sorry, I can't help you with that because I'm already at capacity with [insert other higher priority projects you're working on]), and consider saying no by saying yes. There could always be changes to the value propositions of a project that make saying yes the correct choice - explore those!

Final Thought

If you find it extra difficult to say no, keep in mind that some people are from a guess culture, which can make saying no particularly challenging (but not impossible)! It just means there's a bit more work for you to do to get comfortable saying no.


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#productivity #time_management #word smatter