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Take On Less, Get More Done: Learning to Say No

by The Procrastinating Writer on July 9, 2009

courtesy of Lara604

courtesy of Lara604

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are
and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—to
say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’—Stephen R. Covey

By Jennifer Blanchard

Recently I’ve been reading the book, Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life, by Ellie Krieger.

In the book, Krieger teaches you how to develop and live a healthy lifestyle by making small, gradual changes. In the chapter I was reading last night, Krieger gave some spot-on advice I wanted to share with you all.

Learning to Say No
“There’s one magic word that can change your life, give you back your time, and help you lead a happier life,” Krieger says in the book. “That word is no.

“But I bet you have trouble saying ‘no,’ don’t you?” she says. “I know how you feel. You don’t want to turn down that committee job for your son’s school. Your daughter will be crushed if you’re not the parent helper again this year. Your company always relies on you to organize the holiday party. Guess what. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’–to protect yourself, your time, and your energy.

“But how? ‘No’ seems like such a mean word. It’s selfish, and you’re not selfish, right? I’ve made your job easy for you–here are six ways to say ‘no’ and not feel bad about it:

  1. Use ‘No, Thanks.’ Feel bad about saying ‘no?’ Thank the person for the opportunity before you turn him or her down. ‘I really appreciate you thinking of me, but no, thank you.’ See? You can be polite and turn people down.
  2. Ask For Stalling Time. Too often we agree to do something on the spur of the moment. When asked for something, tell the person you need to think about it and you’ll let her know. Then you can decide whether you want to take on the responsibility.
  3. Counter With An Alternative. If you’re not interested in the job or task, but are willing to do something else, say so. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t take on the chair responsibility, but I’m willing to help with the event the day of.’ (This is mostly a “no” but allows you to participate in something you want to without giving up your life for it.)
  4. Give A Reason(s). Sometimes you have to say ‘no,’ and you’ve got a good reason–or ten of them–for doing so. If you’re comfortable sharing them, let the person know–or say you’ve been overextending yourself lately and need to cut back.
  5. Or Don’t. ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t.’ That’s it. That’s all you have to say. Yes, you’ll feel guilty for a few minutes…but think how relieved you’ll be afterward.
  6. Suggest Someone Else. You can’t do it, but you know someone who might be interested? Pass along the person’s name–it may be just right for him or her.”

If you’re interested in learning more tips and tricks for a healthier, better life, read Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life.

Saying “no” is often very difficult. And procrastinators seem to say “no” less often than most people. This also means procrastinators often take on too much.

I am a prime example of this.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been slacking BIG TIME! I’ve had so much stuff to do, and I haven’t managed to do any of it. I spent most of my week last week sleeping. Not exactly the most productive use of my time.

I’m feeling much better this week, but my problem of taking on too much has finally caught up with me.

So I’m reducing. I’m cutting back. I’m taking a look at my schedule, my list of priorities and my list of outstanding projects and trying to decide which ones are worth my time and energy, and which ones have to go.

I think learning to say “no” is going to be a huge step for me, and help me to procrastinate less, as I often procrastinate because I have so much to do I’d rather not do any of it.

The main thing to remember is this: It’s YOUR life. Which means you need to decide what is and isn’t right for you. And you should never have to feel bad about saying “no” to something that doesn’t fall in line with your goals.

How about you? Do you have a difficult time saying “no?” Do you ever take on too much?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura Lee Bloor July 10, 2009 at 11:55 am

I love this post! You definitely have been going full-steam and piling tons of stuff on your plate. I knew it was a matter of time before you suffered some sort of burnout. But that’s good! I’m sure you needed that sleep. I’m sure you feel better and refreshed and are ready to get refocused and organized.

I too have been slacking lately and normally, I would apologize, but I don’t feel bad. I know I worked really hard for the last couple of years and if I’m slacking a bit now, it’s OK. It’s only temporary. I know it’s not in my nature for that to be permanent.

2 Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome July 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

“No” is probably the hardest two-letter word to say. We worry that people won’t like us or that we’ll disappoint people, but of course by not saying no we end up doing just that when we don’t say no and end up not delivering…

3 Amy Blogs Chow October 31, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I thought I was the only one who spent most of last week sleeping! So relieved that I’m not. I’m a freelancer who writes travel articles and make s’mores (plus other snacks) on YouTube when I’m home. Peers tell me I have to “produce produce produce” and I’ve found the more I stress out about quantity, the more I slack on quality. I became paralyzed in my pursuit of both, which I’m convinced helped bring on a nasty cold. Still fighting the sniffles but am returning to the race, albeit with better priorities. Thanks so much for this post!

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