Wait…what? Say “no”. You heard me right. Don’t get me wrong, I seek out new opportunities, am open to new proposals, and generate new ideas around the clock. I’m not advocating for being stuck in your ways. Or doing it the “way we’ve always done it.” Definitely not!

But, there is a fact we can’t ignore. There are only 24 hours in a day.

No matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, married or single, with or without children, we all have one thing that’s equal. Time. Time is the most valuable commodity you have. And, while you can’t get more time in a day. You can control how you spend your day.

I’ll let you in on a simple little secret. There is only one thing to do to protect your time. Say “no.” You cannot say “yes” to everything. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Most people have a natural tendency to say “yes.” And if you are a people-pleaser, you feel a strong force toward “yes”. You want to help everyone. You want to be a team player. You want to be mom of the year. You want people to like you. This is why saying “no” is so hard. The moment you utter that simple little word, it’s like you’ve disappointed everyone. Your approval rating goes to zero.

It’s hard, I know that. Deep down, you are likely saying “yes” because you do seek other people’s approval. You do care what other people think. I mean, who doesn’t?

Hard truth: you will not and cannot please everyone. It can’t be done. This is your permission to stop trying. 

You are here and reading this because you feel this emotion. Your struggle to say “no” is legit but you know it’s not sustainable. But let me ask you a few hard questions. Be honest. 

  • Are you a victim?
  • Are you taking on the role of martyr?
  • Is anyone actually making you do these things, or are you taking them on yourself? 
  • Are you making things harder than they need to be?
  • Are you overly stressing about things and no one else is giving it a second thought? 
  • Are you putting extra pressure on yourself?  
  • Is it really personal? Or is it personal in your head? 

I know. These are jarring questions. But I want you to think about what’s real versus what you are building up in your mind.

You’re here to get results, so we need to be honest with ourselves about these questions. Saying “no” in a healthy way is only going to work when you can escape that victim mentally. In reality, it’s just not that deep and saying “no” isn’t as big of an obstacle as you might think it is. The weight of this yes/no decision isn’t all on you. You don’t have to do everything yourself.  

With that mental block out of the way, you are ready to take responsibility and control of your time. Ready to take ownership of what’s on your plate. 

Managing your time is one big puzzle. When you take on something new, something else has to go. Pretty simple in principle. There’s always a balancing act going on here. A ying and a yang. Your actions and their impact. The things you’re saying yes to and the things your saying no to. 

A great way to manage your time is to have an actionable to do list in place. That way, when you are faced with the yes/no situation you can remove emotion and have a true sense of what this new task is up against. Do you have a deadline looming on Friday? Is your year end about to hit? Is your biggest client on vacation this week? Is your team less busy right now? Having a clear sense of what is non-negotiable for you this week will help you make sound decisions. 

When possible, take some time to think about your commitment first. You might want to jump on an opportunity that excites you immediately. But, keep in mind that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. If you are dealing with a boss or co-worker on this, discuss with them what you might be giving up to accomplish this new task. 

For example, if your boss comes to you and says “can you help with a new project?” It’s a lot easier to say “no” to your boss when they need to choose between project A or project B. When you know what other tasks are on the table, you can both logically make a decision. If you forgot you had to complete project B by Wednesday and said “yes” without thinking you might 1. Not have enough time to complete the task and 2. Disappoint your boss. Instead, when faced with a new project you can say “let me look at what else is on my plate right now and let you know.” Just that simple switch puts you in control of your time and reduces disappointment. 

My husband was truly one of the biggest Kobe Bryant fans. And one of the things I learned about Kobe over the years was his dedication to his goals. He had to say “no” constantly in order to have time to practice, train, play, and be with his family. Nothing got in the way of his “yeses.” After games when everyone else would go out and celebrate a win he would hit the gym, again, after a game! For him (and yes it is different for everyone), he chose to spend time with his family and dominate at basketball. Nothing got in the way. Which means he said “no” a lot. This is an extreme example, but Kobe made a choice about what was most important to him in life and gave up the rest. Becuase, for him, the rest didn’t matter. 

What are the benefits of saying “no”?

  • You will have more time for what matters to you most.
  • Your self-worth will increase. 
  • People will respect you more when you say “no” from a place of integrity compared to jumping to an immediate “yes” and then under-delivering. 
  • The quality of your work will improve as you are able to focus on the “yes” work that really matters.
  • You will make less mistakes. 
  • If you hoard all the projects, you are robbing someone else of the experience to learn how to do it. Start seeing this as an opportunity to teach or mentor a less experienced team member.  
  • You will establish healthy boundaries in both your personal and professional life. 
  • If you are an introvert, down time is your fuel. You need to say “no” to refuel your tank.

Wondering what to say “no” to and exactly how to say “no” graciously? 

I created the “Guilt-Free Guide to Saying No” to help you. It’s a downloadable PDF so that you can save it and use it over and over.

Key Takeaways:

  • Time is the most valuable commodity you have.

  • Think about what’s real versus what you are building up in your mind. Do you have a victim mentality?

  • When you take on something new, something else has to go.

  • Having a clear sense of what is non-negotiable for you this week will help you make sound decisions.

  • You have permission to say “no”.

  • Saying “no” is hard so I created “Your Guilt Free Guide to Saying No

At this point, you are probably wondering about the percentage in the title of this blog. How is it possible to say “no” 99% of the time? Obviously, not every “no” is created equal. You need to work hard, show up for work with a positive, “yes”-mentality. Big projects, company shifts, and family decisions need to pull a lot of weight as you make decisions. Yes, you need to call your mother-in-law back more than 1% of the time. But, as you go about your day, start paying close attention to all the things that fight for your time. 

  • A notification on your phone = “no”. 
  • An email popped up on your screen but you are working on something important right now = “no”. 
  • Easy tasks that don’t impact the company ROI or your career = “no.”
  • Gossip around the water cooler = “no”.

The list goes on and on. But, all those little things make up the 99%! 

Say “yes” to the 1% high impact projects that really get you to your goals. 

If you need help saying “no”, check out “Your Guilt-Free Guide” Now! I’ll be bringing you my top productivity tips to help you get back control of your time, accomplish more, and be present when you are done for the day.

You Got This! Sarah

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Hi, I’m Sarah
Sarah Ohanesian Productivity Coach

The productivity coach who creates programs for overwhelmed professionals who are ready to say buh bye to stress, anxiety, mental clutter, and analysis paralysis and hello to clarity, purpose, and success.

I bring systems and quick productivity wins to your day so that you can get back control of your time, accomplish more, and be present when you are done at 5.

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