We Need to Learn to Say No

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m rubbish at saying no.

There I was, sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when a colleague telephoned and asked me to get involved in a new project she wants to get off the ground and I found myself getting all caught up in her enthusiasm and thinking “Sure, why the heck not?” and before the call had ended, I found myself agreeing to get involved, without giving any thought whatsoever to the implications.

Probably not my smartest move so far this week.

The above would suggest that, in the whole scheme of things, I’ve got plenty of spare time to devote to yet another commitment haven’t I?

Err, no. Not really.

You see, I’m actually quite busy at the moment. Well, VERY busy if I’m totally honest. I’ve got a book to promote and a business to run and a family to look after. And then there’s my other projects to consider – my voluntary work and a couple of other interesting ventures I want to get off the ground – and I’m juggling them all as it is and to say it’s keeping me on my toes would be putting it mildly..

If I’m honest, it’s making me realize that, if the deal was on the table, I’d probably sell one of my kidneys for 4 extra hours a day!

But I’ve said yes now and that means something’s got to give if I want to retain my sanity, not to mention keep my organs intact!

And so I find myself this morning a bit like an XFactor judge, in front of the kitchen table with lots of bits of paper spread out in front of me. Each one has the details of a different venture/project/ potential commitment on it and I’m going through the process of deciding who goes through to the next round, who gets asked to come back next year and who gets to stay for the finals.

Because I really have to reduce the volume of stuff I’m trying to do and, more importantly get a grip on exactly what I’m capable of fitting into a working week.

In other words, I’m going to have to get better at saying “NO”. I’m going to have to be more ruthless and not just agree to everything people ask me to get involved in. I hate saying no. Why? Because having to disappoint anyone upsets me. In short, I like to keep everyone happy. And so far I have been doing, with one notable exception – me. I’ve realized that while I’m beavering away at the behest of everyone else, I’ve not been feeling very happy myself. Oh, sure, the people around me are happy because, despite the incredible workload, I’ve kept delivering what they’ve asked. But am I enjoying myself? No, not really. Well, not very much at all, in fact. Because keeping up with it all is really very difficult at the moment and I’m very conscious that I can’t sustain this level of working for ever.

Something’s got to give.

So… gone will be the things that don’t really fill me with enthusiasm and yes, gone will be the person who really takes far too much of my time and energy for what they give me in return.

Because I’ve come to the conclusion that if I focus on the things I really want to be involved in, I’ll deliver to a much higher standard. I’ll be enthused and motivated and everyone will be happy, including me. It’ll be a win-win situation, so what’s not good about that?

And with time to do everything and hopefully some time left over, who knows what wonderful things might come my way? If that life-changing opportunity happens to pop up on the horizon, I’ll be able to take it on, happy in the knowledge that I won’t have to run around like a chicken with my head cut off in order to fit it in.

Oh, I’m feeling better already!

P.s. I did consider bailing out of this whole blogging thing but you know what, I’m actually really enjoying the challenge and, although I’ve no idea whether anyone’s even reading what I write or appreciating the time I devote to madly typing away and throwing my random thoughts out there, I actually think it’s good for me and I really REALLY like doing it, so it stays.

Sorry everyone. But you don’t have to read my random ramblings if you don’t want to…
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Lizzie Jones is the author of The 52 List.

  • Great post! It is sometimes difficult to say “no”, because we think that we are letting others down or being selfish. However we must learn to make sure that we make ourselves a priority as much as possible. We can waste so much time doing things for others (especially for those who don’t deserve it!) at the expense of our progression, sanity and wellbeing. I did this for years. If we can’t treat ourselves right, then others will be less likely to treat us properly either. Once you say ‘no’ it will become easier to repeat 🙂

  • Learning to say no has been one of the best things I’ve done over the last several years. I used to find it very difficult to say no, especially to family and friends, but it gets easier with practice like everything else. Also, James Altucher recently published a book on this topic called “The Power of No” that is really good.

  • Solomon

    “Remember that: Character starts and ends with knowing when to say “NO” and “YES”. I
    call that “TRUTH”. Some call it assertiveness. But what I know is that, I have
    met many people who have been afraid of the word “NO” – sometimes to their
    great discomfort. ” – Kwabena Brako-Powers