Burning the busy badge of honor promotes a better work environment and it has an added benefit…supporting your success. Warren Buffet is famous for advising, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything." Buffet isn’t the only (highly) successful individual to support the art of saying “no” more often. Steve Jobs, Tim Ferriss, Jim Collins and even Oprah have all gone on the record with similar points of view. So why don’t more of us listen to their advice? Why do we continue to accept more commitments, driving ourselves to the brink of burnout?
The simple logic behind saying no more often is that it allows us to focus our limited time on activities that support our goals. Makes sense, right? The challenge is that most of us haven’t taken the time to define our goals clearly enough to understand what should be on our yes list. Creating that yes list is critical to giving us the support we need to feel more comfortable delivering a guilt-free, “No thank you.” A broad goal to “grow my business” doesn’t give you the specific criteria you need to evaluate opportunities. But crystallizing around a goal to “grow my business by 10% before Q4 by landing accounts in 3 new markets” provides more focus to evaluate where you should spend your time. It helps you determine that you should – for example - say yes to the speaking opportunity in the west coast market, where you don’t have an account, but no to the lunch-and-learn in your saturated east coast market. See how much easier it is to evaluate the two once you have that clarity?
Here are some questions to use when deciding between yes and no, with a challenge to put them to use this week:
- How does this ask or activity support my immediate and long-term goals?
- Why is the requestor asking me specifically?
- Is this something I am uniquely qualified to address or is it a convenience for them?
- Why do I feel the need to say yes (or no)?
- Is there an emotional element driving my decision? (It’s important to differentiate between a strategic no and a fear-based no.)
- What am I going to have to give up in adding this to my yes list? Is it worth it?
- Is there someone else I could empower by delegating this request to them?
- If someone were asking me if this should be added to their yes list, how would I advise them?
Let’s see how many strategic no’s we can rack up, without guilt, this week!