As an entrepreneur, leader, wife, mother, and friend, my most valuable and limited commodity is my time. Each one of us has only 24 hours a day. To be at our best, we need to balance our careers, family life, creative life, and how we choose to give back. Your health, wealth, and happiness depend on it.
For most of us, myself included, saying no is one of the most difficult tasks to master, but it’s also the one thing that will set us free to do more, be more, and grow. Perhaps our most pressing reason it’s so hard to say no, especially for women, is that we want to be liked. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or we feel guilty. Or, like me, we want to prove that we can do it all.
The most important lesson I’ve learned that I want to pass on is that by saying yes to something that doesn’t further you professionally or personally, you’re effectively saying no to the things that feed you spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
And if your plate is too full, you can’t take advantage of the unexpected opportunity or ideal situation when it presents itself.
Successful womenpreneurs know how to say no, and the truth is they’re still highly respected. Here are a few ways you can retrain yourself from taking on too much to spending your precious time wisely.
1. Always lead with gratitude. Any response—yes or no—should begin with “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I’m flattered/honored/excited you approached me.”
2. Say no clearly, without hesitation, and with authority. Don’t qualify your response by saying “maybe” or “perhaps.” You don’t want to set up false expectations. Simply say “I can’t make it right now” or “It’s not possible.”
3. You can add one or two reasons to help people understand and to gain their respect. “I have other commitments” or “A few pressing matters require my attention right now.” You don’t need to go into any more detail than that.
4. Make sure to release them to work with someone else. “Please make arrangements with someone else.” Or if their request is something you’d like to be involved with at a future date, say “I would love to stay in touch and do something when I’m ready.”
Here are a few good tips to make sure you make the most of your limited hours each day and don’t inadvertently acquiesce to something that won’t help you succeed in some way.
• Have a 24-hour grace period. If you receive a request for your time that sounds promising, but you’re not exactly sure how it relates to your personal or professional goals, take the time you need to consider it appropriately.
• Weed out unnecessary commitments. Resign from committees, boards, or other commitments that don’t fulfill you. If you don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t further you professionally or personally, don’t do it. But save space for “just for fun” items.
• Protect the downtime on your calendar. Say no to dinners, lunch appointments, or social events you don’t enjoy, and leave plenty of white space open on your calendar.
• Reduce your meetings. If a meeting is not essential, say no. If it’s critical for you to be there, that’s another matter, but we take on way too many unnecessary and time-wasting meetings.
Here’s one final thought I’d like to leave you with. For every request or draw on your time, ask yourself this one question:
What is it costing you?
Make sure that what you’re sacrificing by saying “yes” is to your ultimate benefit.
I’d love to hear from you. What is the one thing you’d like to say “no” to right now?