The importance of learning to say no comes from the inescapable truth of time being limited. We shall never have it back. Therefore, we must choose wisely in which activities we should invest our time.

Society nurtures a wrong time management concept. Time management isn’t being able to do everything and being the most productive person ever. Time management is knowing how to make choices, doing only those tasks, and doing them well.

A lot of people are advocates for “Yes Man” like in Jim Carrey’s 2008 movie. I do not agree. However, it doesn’t mean I’m advising you to reject every new experience. It’s about balance, a balance that makes sense for you and only you because it’s your time. No one is more invested in your time management than yourself (unless you are a lousy employee who never respects deadlines, in that case other people might be… invested). Unfortunately, saying no to people and opportunities is seen as being cocky and ungrateful. I would argue it shows maturity to be able to say no with tenacity. It’s a skill we all have to learn, sooner or later, it is part of building a career.

Your career as an entrepreneur, manager or creator is very similar to an actor’s journey. At first, actors accept any role, every opportunity is valid. As time goes by, they build a name for themselves and have to become more selective when it comes to playing roles. It’s impossible to say yes to every opportunity, there is even schedule incompatibility. More than that, each role they take can make or break their career and shapes them as actors. With this in mind, you should only accept the best projects. “How do I know which project is the best?”.

Well, here comes decision making made simple:

  • You can contribute to the project in a way others can’t and you can make a difference in the team’s success;
  • You feel you can learn and grow in the project, it’s going to add value to you;
  • What the project is set to achieve is compatible with your own goals;
  • You believe in the project and the team behind it.

This kind of mindset not only applies to big projects, but also to meetings, tasks someone asked you to do or even events you were invited to. It also implies you know yourself. Your needs, what challenges you look for and how you like to work. This way, no one can test how far you can go.

Nonetheless, saying no to someone (particularly your boss)
is not the easiest thing.

So, we must be careful with our words:

  • Be truly understanding about why the person is asking you something. Listen. If someone is asking for your time it’s because they genuinely believe the task needs to be done or that it is something which will benefit you.
  • Explain why you said no. The arguments should be relevant and concise. Don’t loose yourself in your own explanation.

If you say yes to everything, you will find yourself not having time to sleep, exercise, eat well or take care of yourself. It’s crucial to learn to say no to projects which aren’t right for you. You will be one step closer to being available to say yes to the ones worth it.

Have you said no today?

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