Just say no…

A wise man (Chris Wales @ AltaVista) once told me that if I over commit myself, I will always under achieve. He was right you know. It’s a simple fact that I can’t be productive if I take on too many things. I will simply spread myself too thin and become incapable of getting anything done, at least not well or on time. And most definitely not to my exacting standards. And that’s something that *doesn’t sit well* with me.

Requests for my time come in all the time — through phone, email, IM, Twitter (!) and in person. And at the moment it feels like its snowballing.  On the verge of out of control. Not quite there yet though.

Point in case: Nice man called Alex standing at the end of my desk at 8.07am this morning – “Do you have a minute…?” Ermm. No. Not really…

I moved house at the weekend and I’ve had little or no data / wireless connection for FOUR whole days. Aka no work email. Now some people may think that’s bliss. It’s stressed me out truth be told. You see I had a vague inkling as to what my inbox was going to be like when I stepped over the office threshold this morning.

I’m having to manage my time a bit better these days. Objective #1 is to stop trying to be all things to all people, therefore I’m having to relearn how to say no.  And I hate saying no. I’m an ESFJ. Another *doesn’t sit well* with me moment.

Rightly – you could well ask yourself, “what’s so blimmin’ difficult about saying no…?”

Well it’s like this – it p*sses people off, and that’s not my idea of fun. Secondly, I have to work with a lot of people across the business I’m in and it’s in my flipping biological make up to want to grow good relationships, and how and when you say “no” can sometimes jeopardize that.

The stuff I’ve had to remind myself of over the last couple of weeks:

  1. Value my time. Know my commitments. Understand how precious my time is. Then, when someone asks me to get involved in something new, I know when I simply can’t do it.
  2. Re-engage with my priorities. Even if I do have some extra time (which for me is rare), I have to take a step back and think is this new commitment really the way I should be spending my time? Is it adding value?
  3. Practise saying no. After all practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as I can is the only way to get better at it and become more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to really *very* persistent people. When they keep insisting, I just keep saying no. They get the message eventually. One way or the other.
  4. Never apologise. My usual way of saying “no” is to start out with “I’m sorry but …” as I think that people think it sounds more polite. While being polite is important (I was dragged up proper you see), saying sorry makes me sound weak and a little bit feeble. I need to be firm and unapologetic. It’s my time and it’s important to me.
  5. Stop being nice. Saying yes all the time only hurts me. When I make it easy for people to grab my time, they continue to do it. But if I say ”no” they get bored and look for an easier target.
  6. Delay, delay, delay. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person I’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This gives me time to give it some consideration, and check my commitments and priorities. Then I can tell them “no” having given it the due consideration it deserves. If thats the right thing to do.
  7. Maybe later. If it’s something that I’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door, I might just say, “Sounds interesting, but I just don’t have the time right now. Perhaps you could come and talk to me in a week?” Next time I could well have some of the elusive free time on my hands.

And there you have it. My thoughts on how to say “no”. And for once I’m going to eat my own dogfood. Horrid expression I know, but I need to get better at this. After all if “just saying no” was good enough for Grange Hill, then it’s got to be good enough for me right?

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