Get on the No Train

Jan 16, 2021

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your to do list, inbox or meeting schedule?

If the answer is no, then pour yourself a wine & feel free to move on – nothing to see here!

For the rest of us, learning to say no can mean the difference between feeling stressed & feeling calm.

When you set boundaries around your time & attention, you have more energy & are more productive. You’re seen as someone who can handle pressure. You’re also perceived as someone in control. In business, perception counts for a lot.

I get it. Saying no can be hard. It can be uncomfortable saying no if you worry about upsetting people or letting them down. And as leaders we don’t want to look as though we can’t handle our workload. Or that we’re not capable of taking on more, especially if we’re thinking about our next step up.

But if you’re unable to say no, not only do you risk burnout, you’re also at risk of manifesting the very things you fear.

So this week, practice saying no & see how it feels. If it feels good, keep going. And save your “yes” for the things that really matter.

3 ways to practice the art of no:

1. Reduce your commitments

Do you need to attend every meeting you’re invited to? Is there someone on your team who would benefit from attending in your place? When we’re in meetings from 9-5 every day, not only do we do a disservice to ourselves, we do a disservice to the people in our team. Only say yes to the things that align with your priorities (see #2 below).

2. Cull your to do list

Ok, this is a big one. How many things do you have on your to do list? And how many do you usually cross off in a day? Most people have far more things on their daily list than they can ever hope to achieve. Get rigorous with your priorities.

For leaders working in open plan offices, a lot of time gets eaten away when people come to your desk with questions. This one can be tricky, especially if you’re in a lot of meetings & not very accessible.

However, most people know the answer to the questions they’re asking. They just need a little nudge in that direction.

Let people know you have confidence in their ability to solve problems. With practice, your team will become more self-sufficient, which is empowering for everyone.

And finally, we’ve all been in meetings where tasks on a new project are being allocated. If the project doesn’t align with your business priorities, avoid volunteering. Politely but firmly decline.

3. Agree to realistic timeframes

This one’s simple. Manage other people’s expectations, but only agree to timeframes you can meet.

This also applies to emails & phone calls after hours & on weekends. If you don’t respect your time, no one else will either.


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