The power of saying “no”

The power of saying “no”. It’s a simple word, but one that far too many of us have trouble saying.  Perhaps it is because you’ve become successful by saying yes to every business opportunity, every request that has come your way, in order to grow your business or develop your career.

However, as you progress through your career, you become more successful and new opportunities will inevitably emerge. More people and more projects will vie for your time.

You cannot do everything, and this is when it may be necessary to start saying no to things.

More than ever, we are all working harder with less resources which means that we can often take on too much work. Sometimes saying “yes” to another project when you are already at full capacity effectively means that you’re saying no to completing the tasks that you already have to do.

Steve Jobs famously said that “focusing is about saying no”. Focusing on what matters, not just what is in front of you, is the key to driving the success of any business.

Most teams in most businesses set out their annual objectives at the start of the year. These objectives should align with the overall goals of the business. Individual projects and day-to-day tasks should align with these objectives. If a new project or request doesn’t align with your team’s objectives then it might be best to push back and say “no”.

If a senior colleague asks you to do something, a flat “no” may not be an appropriate response. Instead it may be more appropriate to say that you don’t have any capacity at the moment, outlining the key projects that you are currently working on. If the new request is to be prioritised, your colleague may suggest that one of your other projects is put on the back burner.

When it comes to managing your time, your career, and your business, over-committing yourself isn’t a sign of success. If you’re struggling to say no, think back to all the times when agreeing to take on something new distracted you from your own priorities. How much time, energy, and stress might have been saved if you had just been able to say no?

If you don’t have time to take on more work, next time simply say, “No, I can’t commit to that due to other priorities.” You don’t need to apologise or over-explain. Just be polite and move on.

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