People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.Steve Jobs
Let me ask you a question:
Do you say yes when you mean to say no?
There might be many different reasons why you do that. Let me name some of them:
You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, you’re afraid that someone else might do it and then do a better job, you like to be a people pleaser, and want to be liked and respected by everyone.
But then, once you said Yes to something you actually do not want to do, those feelings set in:
Overwhelm and exhaustion. You feel overstretched, stressed, and very inefficient.
Here are some insights that helped me realize that saying no is not a bad thing and also means you’re saying yes to yourself, which we should do more often!
- Say thank you before saying no. Usually, if someone asks you to do something, they value your skills or want to spend time with you. That’s something to be grateful for. So saying this out loud gives you a chance to appreciate that person back and shows them that they were heard even though you will decline in the end.
- What do you want to make room for? Instead of focusing on what you might miss, remember that you only have a certain amount of time and energy. Think about how you want to spend that time and what is most important to you. Once you have done that, you will care less about saying no, as you are more excited to dive into what you really want to.
- You don’t even have to use the word no when declining something politely: „Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m putting all my energy forward into writing my book at the moment. Hope you find someone else to help you.“ or steal Phoebe Buffay’s honest line: „I wish I could….but I don’t want to.“ (from Friends). People will not respect you less for saying no. Quite the opposite. It shows that you have a vision, a plan, an opinion and are in control of how you spend your time.
- There was a time when it was cool to be busy. However, more work is required to not be busy these days. So choose to focus on the right things instead. But how to eliminate those things that should not be a priority? Make sure to clarify whether this is your priority or really a priority of someone else. The sooner your learn to label someone else’s expectation of you as an non-prioirty, the quicker you can move forward with you true priorities.
- In your lifetime you will have to say no to great ideas because they would spread you too thin and would not allow you to have time for the things really close to your heart.
- Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to feel obliged to do it as well. Take this simple example. While cultivating your friendships should be an absolute priority, your daily use of social channels doesn’t have to be. While for some peer pressure feels like a powerful force, don’t let those expectations push you to say yes to something you actually want to say no to.
- No is not a dirty word. Instead, see it as a blessing to allow yourself to make more room for the things you want to say yes to. Also, do not fear saying no. It may seem like a powerfully intimidating two letter word, but for such a tiny one, it can be incredibly liberating.
- Consider saying no as your personal battle shield that will help you deflect distractions, support you in staying true to yourself and sticking to the course that you have set out for. Just remember that every time you agree to do something you don’t want to do, it beats you up mentally. Don’t sabotage your creative process by committing to something you know is not right for you. Trust that your battle shield knows what is right and what is not.
Now it’s your turn:
- Schedule everything! Knowing when we have things on and what time we need to be there is necessary. Starting to put all those dates in your calendar will allow you to see where the more important meeting need to be with yourself, where you make time to do the things you want to put your energy in. May that be a morning breakfast, a yoga class or time to read, it doesn’t matter. No excuses!
- Try using the big N word a little more often. You might feel guilty initially. Acknowledge the feeling, let it go and move on. This will help you stay in the present and become more used to saying no.
- Last but not least, don’t forget all the opportunities that will open up! The additional time you have, more energy to learn something new, broaden your horizon, leave your comfort zone and just be! So embrace making more room for those things with a big smile! What are you going to make more time for in the next couple of months?
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life …Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.Steve Jobs