Simplify by Saying “No” by Ramona Creel
Check: When you say yes what do you say no to?
When you say no what do you say yes to?
When You Need to Say “No”: Reinventing yourself often involves being courageous and saying “yes” to an idea or opportunity that seems too farfetched or over-the-top to be worthy of consideration. William Shatner is an example of someone that has used this formula to reinvent himself throughout his life. Saying “yes” works because discovery is often a process of exploring and taking interesting side trips, a critical activity in recognizing and creating new opportunities. But when you know where you want to go, focus and direction is what is called for. When you have determined a course of action and want to achieve momentum, saying “no” may be what you need to practice; it is hard to move forward when you have distractions and obstacles in the way.
Do you need a “Cut the Crap Committee” at your organisation? Julian Richer, CEO and founder of the British audio equipment retail organization decided they did. In The Richer Way, Richer explains that the Cut the Crap Committee is designed to reduce bureaucracy by limiting unproductive systems and paperwork. The results: Richer Sounds holds the Guinness Record for the highest sales per square foot of any retail outlet in the world and also gives the biggest percentage of its profits to charity of any company in the UK. Henry David Thoreau said “Simplify”
So how do you “cut the crap”? My organisational and individual coaching clients are often telling me that they have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. They understand that they can’t do everything, but what they are not clear on is what to say “no” to. I have found that it is useful to think about what to say no to this way: Analyse your task by what is urgent and important. (Thank you, Steven Covey.) Say No to What is Not Important. Put your tasks into one of the four quadrants below:
Focus on what is important first. That means that you want to prioritize what is in Quadrants I and II as the activities to focus on. You do want to make sure that you have a balance of the two. If you spend all your time doing QI activities you will be living a crisis-driven life. You will need to also find time for the important activities that are not deadline driven.
Use high-energy time to complete important tasks. Does that mean you have to eliminate all pleasure activities or other tasks that fall into Q III and IV. No! The key is to be strategic when you do these activities. Most people get into the office and open their email. As a consequence, they spend valuable high- energy time on mundane tasks, when they should be focusing on the activities that are important and urgent. Use times during the day when you have low energy or are winding down for those activities.
Once you are clear on what is important, it is easy to say “no” to what isn’t. Well, it is easier, anyway. If you have trouble saying “no” regardless of how clear you are on your priorities and time limitations, Ramona Creel has helpful suggestions for saying “no” in different circumstances in her 20 Ways to Say No list – see below.
Start saying “no”. Focus on what is important.
Ask yourself: What can you stop doing right now? What can you get rid of? What can be cut right now? What would be nice to do, but isn’t important?
I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF SEVERAL PROJECTS
- let people know when you have accepted other responsibilities
- no need to make excuses if you don’t have any free time
- no one will fault you for having already filled your plate
I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT
- you might be uncomfortable with any of a number of issues
- the people involved, the type of work, the morale implications, etc.
- this is a very respectful way to avoid a sticky situation
I AM NOT TAKING ON ANY NEW RESPONSIBILITIES
- you aren’t saying that you will never help out again
- just that you feel your schedule is as full as you would like now
- understanding your limits is a talent to be expected
I AM NOT THE MOST QUALIFIED PERSON FOR THE JOB
- if you don’t feel that you have adequate skills, that’s okay
- it’s better to admit your limitations up front
- the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed down the road
I DO NOT ENJOY THAT KIND OF WORK
- life isn’t about drudgery — if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?
- don’t be afraid to let someone know you just don’t want to
- someone else is bound to enjoy the work you don’t
I DO NOT HAVE ANY MORE ROOM IN MY CALENDAR
- be honest if your schedule is filled
- “filled” doesn’t have to mean really filled
- know when you are scheduled as much as you are willing and stop
I HATE TO SPLIT MY ATTENTION AMONG PROJECTS
- let people know that you want to do a good job for them
- but you can’t when your focus is too divided or splintered
- you will be more effective if you focus on one project at a time
I HAVE ANOTHER COMMITMENT
- it doesn’t matter what the commitment is
- it can even simply be time to yourself or with friends or family
- you don’t have to justify — you simply aren’t available
I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE WITH THAT
- volunteering shouldn’t mean learning an entirely new set of skills
- suggest that they find someone who has experience in that area
- offer to help out with something that you already know how to do
I KNOW YOU WILL DO A WONDERFUL JOB YOURSELF
- people often ask for help because they doubt their own abilities
- let them know that you have confidence they will succeed
- you are actually doing them a favor in the long run
I NEED TO FOCUS MORE ON MY PERSONAL LIFE
- don’t be ashamed of wanting to spend time with your family
- having a strong family is an important priority in and of itself
- be willing to put your personal needs first
I NEED TO FOCUS ON MY CAREER RIGHT NOW
- often, you have to focus your energies on a work-related task
- you may have to give up some civic or community duties
- if you don’t do it, someone else will take on the task
I NEED TO LEAVE SOME FREE TIME FOR MYSELF
- it’s okay to be selfish — in a good way!
- treat your personal time like any other appointment
- block off time in your calendar and guard it with your life
I WOULD RATHER DECLINE THAN DO A MEDIOCRE JOB
- know when you aren’t going to be able to deliver a quality product
- the reason doesn’t matter — not enough time, wrong skills, etc.
- whatever the reason is enough for turning a request down
I WOULD RATHER HELP OUT WITH ANOTHER TASK
- saying no doesn’t mean that you can’t help at all
- if someone asks you to do something you really despise, refuse
- then offer to help with something you find more enjoyable
LET ME HOOK YOU UP WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN DO IT
- if you aren’t available to help out, offer another qualified resource
- helping to connect people is a valuable service to offer
- make sure the person you refer will represent you well
- sometimes it’s okay to just say no!
- just say it in a way that expresses respect and courtesy
- leave the door open for good relations
NOT RIGHT NOW, BUT I CAN DO IT LATER
- if you really want to help but don’t have time, say so
- offer to help at a later time or date
- if they can’t wait for you, they’ll find someone else
SOME THINGS HAVE COME UP THAT NEED MY ATTENTION
- unexpected things happen that throw your schedule off
- accept that you may need to make a few adjustments
- it is temporary and you will have more time when life stabilizes
THIS REALLY IS NOT MY STRONG SUIT
- it’s okay to admit your limitations
- knowing what you can handle and what you can’t is a skill
- your time will be more efficiently spent on something you do well
Copyright 2000-2009 Ramona Creel
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