Just Say No – How to protect your time

One of the hardest things for anybody to do is to say no. You want to be helpful and you feel like you owe it to others to help when they need you. The problem is that this time spent helping others can turn into a major drain of your energy and time. Saying no doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from them or denying the help they need; it just means setting boundaries so that your time doesn’t disappear.

The Truth about Saying No

What happens when you always say ‘yes’ to others? You benefit them but often it’s at the cost of your own sanity and success. You end up burned out and stressed. When this happens too much, it’s impossible to be productive.

When you’re able to say no to others, this shows that you value your time. It sets a value that others recognise; and when you value your time, others will too.

It’s important to realise that there’s nothing rude or disagreeable about declining a request for your time. When you say no, you’re simply being honest with them. You can’t be truly helpful to people if you don’t really have the time to spare.

How to Say No

the most polite ways to say no involve being brief, direct and honest. Don’t leave it open to debate. Tell them why you’re unable to help but keep it simple. For example, say that you’re very busy right at the moment and you wouldn’t be able to give their request the attention it deserves.

A great way to say no effectively is to offer the person a time to talk about it later. Tell them that you can’t do it now but you’d be happy to do it when you’re not so busy. This shows your willingness to do it even though it’s impossible at the moment. Offer them a specific time and schedule it, but again, be honest. Don’t overextend your future schedule!

You can be vaguer if you want by telling them you’ll think about it and get back to them. But only say this if you really will consider helping them. Don’t use an empty promise just to get someone to leave you alone. Giving a vague timeframe is often the easiest way to handle a request when you’re really overwhelmed with work. It can be stressful to pin down an exact time.

Another effective technique is to refer them to someone else who can help. Tell them, ‘I’m not the best person for this right now, but how about so-and-so?’ This is far better than just saying no.

What If They’re Not Okay With Your Answer?

The above tactics are a piece of cake when the person on the other end says ‘okay.’ But what if they press you to explain more or try to get you to change your mind? It takes a little bit of experience to learn how to handle these situations, but just remember that you don’t have to give them every detail of what you’re doing. If you explain, they’ll just use your explanation to try to wheedle your time out of you. Just tell them that you’re too busy at the moment and leave it at that. You don’t owe an explanation unless it’s from your direct boss.

 If you would like to discover nine different ways to say no then visit our workshops page

Till Next Time

The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner

Mike Gardner is ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management specialists being regularly featured in articles in the small business sections of both The Times and Guardian newspapers. He is an author, speaker and mentor. He enables you to prioritize your activities, so that you can be incredibly productive, whilst still having time for the things that matter most in your life. He is an avid fan of Aston Villa, a Dad of Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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4 thoughts on “Just Say No – How to protect your time

  1. Absolutely, learning to say no is part of growing up, I think. Although it’s harder to say no to some people than others. . .