Need More Time? Learn to say ‘NO’

I wish I had more time to…” is an oft heard lament brought about by the constant overwhelming struggle to keep up with our to-do lists. The recent Professional Women at Britcham event on ‘work/life harmony’ had a panel of four amazing women super-achievers. They candidly shared their strategies on juggling all their roles and time commitments to achieve the fine balance.

The key lesson from the panel discussion – Learn to value your time, as you only have a finite amount of it, and it’s your most valuable asset.

Panelist at Professional Women at BritCham Event

We often agree to do something that we actually didn’t want to do if asked at work or by friends and family? Many of us find it hard to say ‘no’ and end up doing it…to later feel used and resent it. So why do we continue to say yes? It could be that we believe that saying ‘no’ is uncaring, even selfish, and we may have a fear of letting other people down. On top of this may be a fear of being disliked, criticized, or risking a friendship.

Being unable to say no can be exhausting and stressful. It undermines our quality of life if we spend hours worrying over how to get out of an already-promised commitment. Don’t wait until your energy runs out before you take a much needed step back to assess the situation.

Learning to say ‘no’ sends a strong message that you value your time, have priorities, and also respect the person to whom you’re saying no, as you don’t want to commit to something and then do a lousy job or not do it at all.

Saying ‘no’ a great productivity booster. Here are 7 simple ways to say no:

  1. I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.” Let them know if you are too busy with prior commitments.  You could also share what you’re working on to make it easier.
  2. Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. Maybe we could connect at another time,” to sudden requests for help or phone calls when you are in the middle of something. Let the person know it’s not a good time convey your desire to help by suggesting another convenient time.
  3. I’d love to do this, but …” is a gentle way of saying no. It lets the person know you like the idea and cannot participate due to other reasons such as prior commitments or different needs.
  4. Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”  This is more like a ‘maybe’ than a straight out ‘no’ and can be used if you do not want to commit immediately.
  5. This doesn’t meet my current interests.” If someone is pitching an opportunity that does not interest you, let them know straight out.
  6. I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try …?” If you are being asked for help, where you cannot contribute, be open about it and if possible refer them to a lead they can follow-up on.
  7. No, I can’t.” This is the simplest and most direct way to say no. Be prepared to refuse requests that don’t meet your schedule or needs. Remember you’re turning down a request, not a person. People usually will understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask the favor.

Saying no is about respect and value for your time and space.  Keep your responses simple and direct. Try to be strong in your body language and don’t over-apologize. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no. As you practice saying no, it will get easier. Start now!

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One Response to Need More Time? Learn to say ‘NO’

  1. 8 Nov. 2011
    Professionally, I’m a Chartered Accountant and was never supposed to do any significant literary work. But when request came to me from a few North Indian friends of mine, who are Tagorephiles, to translate Tagore for enrichment of their exposure to the Poet’s ‘timeless literature’, my instant reply was that they were making an absurd request to a wrong person. But, my friends were such a pest that eventually I had to yield to their request and my book of Tagore translation “The Eclipsed Sun” saw the light of the day in January 2002. Its Internet edition has been released wef 15th April 2011, courtesy IndoIndians.com (or, more precisely Ms. Poonam Sagar). I’m thankful to my said North Indian frioends that they were good task masters to make a poet (or, translator) out of an Audit professional like me. Thus, it is not necessaruily wise to shake off a onus by a straight or round about “No”.
    Rajat Das Gupta

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