You are busy. Probably busier than the people around you realize. I think you’re busier than you even realize. Between email, coffee meetings, email, work schedules, email, kids’ schedules, email, and trying to find time for yourself, it’s all just too much.
The trouble is, people have direct access to you. It used to be that they had to wait until you were near a phone (the kind that was attached to the wall with a cord) or until they could see you face-to-face to gain your attention. Now, all it takes is a tweet, an email, or a Facebook message and your attention is taken off task. Yeah, being unreachable is a thing of the past.
Admit it. It is too much.
And now that you’ve admitted it, you just have to decide what you’re going to do about it. My suggestion? Learn to say “no.”
I know, I know, it’s really hard to say no. So many people have said yes to you, and you feel like you have to do the same. Stop it. Every time you say yes, you’re saying no to something else (like a life), whether you like it or not. You have to draw a line, not in the sand, but in something more concrete than sand… Like concrete.
How can you say “no” more often?
- In text or email, make it easier by having a generic refusal drafted ahead of time. When the time for no arises, simply drop the drafted text into your email. Don’t write it out of emotion. When we spew out an emotional response, we usually have to follow it up with an apology and the situation is clouded with angst. Keep it simple with something like, “Hey, thank you for wanting to meet; I appreciate it so much. Could we continue this conversation via email? I may be able to address your concerns more quickly.”
- Say no to meetings you know you’re just going to hand off anyway. Make the connection without doing the transitional meeting. It’s okay to do this, because you’re saving time for everyone involved. Saying, “I may not be the best person to ask. Let me connect you with someone who can help with this,” shows that you’ve given the situation some thought and are expediting the solution.
- Straight up, be honest with people. I’m frequently contacted by people who’d like to preach or sing at our church. It’s easy to string a person along in the name of Protecting Their Feelings when you already know it’s not going to happen. Tell a person the truth, even if it’s difficult; they’ll appreciate it more. Remember, the person on the other end of that call or email is probably just as busy as you.
- Have a plan in place that allows you to say yes when you really want to say yes. This includes a plan for saying no when you need to say no. If your schedule is full of the no crowd, you’ve filled up the space that would be better used by helping the people you’d like to help. We all know this, but time is limited. You only have a finite amount of it. I love my family too much to fill my nights and weekends by saying “yes” to more unnecessary work and “no” to having fun with my wife and kids.
In your life, where do you need to say no? And where do you need to say no more frequently? I know, for me, I need fewer coffee meetings.
Have questions? Email or tweet at me and I’ll try to give you a few personalized tips for your specific problem. Just remember, I might tell you that I can’t help. You might just get proof that I say “no” a lot.