The Big Idea
Everytime we say YES, we are saying NO to something else.
Questions I Answer
- How can I say no more often?
- What’s a good excuse to use when I want to say no?
- How do I figure out if an opportunity is right for me?
- How can I say no without feeling guilty?
Actions to Take
- If you haven’t already, listen to Episode 006: The Power of Priorities.
- Keep a few good excuses with you, in your planner, on your phone, etc., to keep them handy for the next time you need to say no.
Key Topics in the Show
How to filter out most of your lowest priority tasks.
Why delegating will help you focus on your priorities.
Why we have guilt about saying no to things and how to overcome it.
Getting rid of the busy mindset and being more productive.
The way saying No really means Yes, and vice versa.
Good excuses and ways to say no.
Resources and Links
- 5 Excuses to Use When You Want to Say No
- Blame it on your budget: “I’m so sorry, that doesn’t fit in my budget this month, but I really appreciate the invitation.”
- Blame it on your schedule: “Oh that sounds like something I’d love, unfortunately I’m so over committed right now, but thank you so much for thinking of me.”
- Blame it on somebody else: “Oh, you know what? We would really enjoy that event but that’s our family night and I know that- [your husband, your child, whoever] -is really looking forward to it. I just can’t cancel.” Or, “I promised my husband I wouldn’t take on any new projects right now.”
- Blame it on exhaustion: “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m going to keep that night open. I’m usually really tired on Monday nights and I really need that time to relax and recharge for my family.”
- Just say no: “No, thank you. I appreciate you thinking of me!”
Hello, hello, everyone! Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode seven. Today we are going to be talking about the power of the word no, and really cutting through a lot of the clutter in our daily to-do list … in our daily task list, because most of us put way too many things on there.
Our task list is so long each and every day and there’s no way we’re going to be able to get it all done and feel successful at the end of the day. Or, if we get it done, we are exhausted, right? So today, we’re going to be focusing on how to get rid of some of that clutter and extra noise that you’re having on your to-do list.
Last time, in episode six, we talked about the importance of prioritizing your tasks. Every day, sitting down and prioritizing the things that are on your to-do list for each and every day because it’s going to help add order to your day, and it’s really going to enable you to focus in on the areas of you day and the tasks you want to do that are important to you and that help you move toward your end goals, and ultimately, toward your mission.
We discussed a method of prioritizing that’s a combination of the triage method and the Eisenhower matrix. We came up with a hybrid system to create three priority levels for yourself. If you did not listen to episode six, I would definitely recommend going back and giving that a quick listen, but I’m going to give you a quick review because it’s been a week since we talked about it.
Let’s give a quick review. We have three priorities. Priority one is the level at the very top, and these are the things that are important and urgent. These are the things that do align with your goals and what you want to do, and they are really time-sensitive. These are your top priorities that you need to tackle each day.
Then we have priority two, which are important and non-urgent. To be honest with you, this is where you want to spend the majority of your time. We talked a lot about that last time. You really want to focus in on priority two, whenever possible.
Then we have priority three, which are the unimportant but urgent tasks. These are the things that you have to deal with because they’re pressing on you because they have a deadline that’s looming, there’s things that have to be done that absolutely cannot wait. They’re time sensitive, but they don’t necessarily align with your goals. They’re unimportant, but urgent. A lot of times, these are really the things that pull you away from your priority two section, where you want to spend the most of your time, because they’re calling out to you because you have the exclamation marks next to them, and they need to be dealt with immediately.
This is the area we’re going to be focusing in on today, because we want to get rid of as much of our priority three task list as possible. We want to be able to clear this space in our minds. When you clear space in your mind, it really allows you to be open to new ideas and to create. Even more importantly, we want to bank up that time. That time we’re spending on priority three tasks, we could take that and put it together to create a nice pocket of time, to use in a way that really is important to us, so that we can start spending more time on priority two tasks.
We want to get rid of these because they’re not aligning with our personal goals. The question is, why do we have any items at all in priority three? We talked last time about doing away with all of our priority four items. Those are the things that are time wasters, for lack of a better word. Those are the things that are unimportant and non-urgent. The difference between priority four and priority three is priority four items are really just time wasters. We need to just get rid of those.
Priority three items are always going to be there, because it can be things like picking up your dry cleaning or returning emails. There’s always going to be things there, but we can really work to filter out and limit the number of items in our priority three task lists by filtering them.
So how do we filter these items? We’re going to start by changing your mindset a little bit, because we have two levels to this filter. You can delegate, or you can get rid of it: don’t do it at all. I mean really? They’re priority three. Do we really have to do any of these? Technically, we don’t. None of it is listed as important, but that’s not necessarily true. You do need to reply to your emails and you do need to make sure there’s clean clothes in your closet, right? What we can do is we can filter out most of the other items in that list, so that we can focus in on those priority two items.
Let’s talk about these filters. First of all, you can delegate. You can give the job to someone else. You don’t have to do it all. I’m going to say that one more time. You don’t have to do it all. So many times, we feel like we have to do it all and be it all and not only do it all, but do it all so amazingly well that everyone looks at us and goes, “Wow, she’s a super person! She’s a super woman!” Right? It’s okay to give the job to someone else. If you shared the load, would your life become a little bit easier? Would it make you feel a little bit lighter? Would that allow you to bank up that time, so you really could work toward your mission?
I know delegating can be really difficult, but why is it so hard? First of all, it’s hard because we feel guilty. It makes you feel kind of bad to think about someone else doing the dirty work for you. Maybe it’s cleaning your house, and that makes you feel bad about someone else coming and cleaning your house, because I should be doing it. That’s not necessarily true. It’s okay to have somebody else come in and do a job for you. They may enjoy that job. They may enjoy the money they make from doing that job. Let’s start by trying to get rid of a little bit of that guilt.
One of the other things that makes delegating a little more difficult is the perfectionism issue. You have certain ways you want things done, and maybe those people that you delegate to just won’t do it right. They won’t do it the way that you do it, or the way that you want it done. We have to really let go of that, and think it’s okay for someone else to do this.
Let me give you an example of this, that I see time and time again. If you’re a mom and you change diapers, I’m sure you know this is not the most glamorous job, right? You change diapers, you change diapers, you change diapers, then your husband comes over and he says, “You know what? I’d be happy to change the diaper.” You go, “Okay!” He goes into the room, he goes to change the baby and he’s
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not doing it quite right. Diaper’s not tight enough, maybe it’s a little bit crooked, and you’re like, “Oh, no, no, no. That’s not how it’s done. You know what? Just let me do it,” and you take the baby away. He says okay.
Then another time he asks, “Let me change the baby’s diaper,” and he goes in there, and he’s not quite doing it right, and you’re standing over him, telling him how he’s doing it wrong, and maybe you take the baby away again, and you fix the diaper. What’s he learning? He’s learning, “Every time I go to change the baby’s diaper, she ends up doing it anyways.” Eventually, he stops changing the diaper. What do we do, as the mom? We complain. Why does he never change the diapers? He’s not changing the diapers because we’ve been telling him all along, “You’re not doing it right.” When really, if we would just wait til he left the room and then tightened that diaper up, or straightened it up, however it needs to be … Eventually he’ll get it right.
We have to be okay with people doing it in ways that are not the same way that we do it. That it’s okay. I’m going to get off my soap box now.
The third thing that makes it really difficult to delegate is finances. I totally get this, because it’s a very valid excuse, but I encourage you to approach it in a different way. I used to feel this way about getting my house cleaned. I used to feel guilty, and I used to feel bad about spending the money to get my house cleaned. When I
figured out that I could spend my Saturdays chasing my kids in the yard and playing board games instead of scrubbing toilets, I started to realize that the money I was spending was outweighed by the joy I felt on focusing on my kids.
My kids were one of my priorities. What I was willing to was I was willing to give up pedicures, for house cleaning. No more pedicures for me, I’ll do my own toenails. What are you willing to give up in order to delegate some of these tasks that you don’t really like to do? Is there an expense you’d be willing to swap out? Maybe it’s your daily Starbucks or the highlights in your hair or the weekly blowouts you get.
If paying someone else really isn’t an option, which I understand if it’s not, try sharing jobs with someone else, or even doing a trade. Let’s say you don’t like cooking but your best friend does. Why don’t you strike up a deal to have her double up her freezer meals, and you could take on one of the duties she doesn’t like, or do some child care for her, or do something like that. Think about other ways of payment, other than just writing a check.
The other option, other than delegating, is just get rid of it. Don’t do it at all. Here, I’m talking about how you take on the jobs and the tasks that you really should say no to doing at all. They don’t need to be delegated, because these are jobs you should have said no to from the beginning.
Saying no can be really difficult, and I understand that, because there are times that I have a hard time saying no, also. Why is it that saying no is so hard? Reason number one? Same reason as delegating: guilt. You feel guilty saying no. “Oh,
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I feel bad. Maybe they need volunteers,” or, “I probably have a few minutes here or there.” You feel guilty about it.
I’m going to encourage you again, to not feel guilty for pursuing your own priorities. I know you want to please everyone. Let me rephrase that. You want to please everyone else but yourself. A lot of times, we place ourselves at the bottom of that people-pleasing list. We say, “I have a hard time saying no to somebody else, but I can say no to myself all day long.” Really think about, if it’s not a priority for you, feeling okay with focusing in on your priorities instead.
The other thing we tend to do is we convince ourselves that we have time for one more thing. Or we think busy is good. Everyone says they’re busy. Everybody says, “What’s going on?” “Oh, I’m busy, I’m busy.” Here’s what I have to say to you. Stop the glorification of busy. There’s mugs, there’s posters, there’s cups, I’ve seen all different kinds of books that say “I am very busy.” They really promote this idea that we’re supposed to be busy. That’s the way our lives are supposed to work. I’m here to tell you that busy does not mean productive. It doesn’t mean that you’re better than anyone else, and you know what? It certainly doesn’t mean you’re happy.
Think about how often you answer the question, “How are you?” with the word, “Busy.” How are you? Busy. You know what? Busy is not an emotion, busy is a state. Let’s stop thinking busy is code for “I’m awesome because I do a lot,” and let’s start answering that question with how we really feel. I’m happy. I’m stressed. I’m sad. These are ways that start real conversations. We have to really get out of that mindset that we’re supposed to be busy, because you can be just as productive, doing less, if you’re prioritizing.
Generally, there are things in this priority three tier that are things you technically could do, but you really need to say no to, to make time for your mission and to prevent yourself from stretching yourself too thin. The bake sale. The volunteer position to chair the fall carnival. The extra project at work that no one else wants to do. If these are things that do align with your priorities and missions, then great! Do it!
If one of your passions is baking and you get asked to volunteer for the bake sale, and you think, “This is a great excuse for me to pull out my mixer and get my kitchen dirty,” then do it. Don’t say yes if you don’t enjoy baking, or if you know that this is just going to stress you out and take away time from what is really important to you.
A lot of times, when there are things like that, it’s because they don’t really align with our own goals. It’s okay to say no, and it is okay to say yes. If it is something that aligns with your mission, absolutely go for it. We are going to be talking in our next episode about finding your yes. We’re going to go a lot more in depth on that in our next episode, but for now, we’re really focusing in on clearing out the clutter so we can say yes eventually.
Just because you do have time doesn’t mean that you have to spend it in the ways that the others want you to. I need you to let go of that guilt. We aren’t just
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talking about volunteer positions here. I’m talking about that bad relationship you’re in. That job that you really don’t love. All those things in your life that are not fulfilling to you and are not really pushing you toward your big dreams.
Every time we say yes to something, we’re saying no to something else. Think about that. Every time we say yes, we’re saying no to something else. Repeat that to yourself. Your time, your relationships, your passions … When you say yes to something you don’t really enjoy, you’re actually saying no to the things that you do love. When you say yes to a job that doesn’t make you happy, you’re saying no to your dream job. When you say yes to someone you don’t like, you’re saying no to a fulfilling relationship. When you say yes to working overtime, you’re actually saying no to the social life that you really crave.
If you think about it in terms of that, that saying yes is always a no, how does that make you feel? Does that change the way you feel about the word yes and the word no? You really want to think about where your yeses are going and where your nos are going.
That sounds easy, right? Just say no. How do you say no to something when you just don’t want to do it? Start off by setting some ground rules for yourself. Figure out, let’s say, for example, how many nights a week are you willing to block off time that you can commit to things that are not your priorities? How many days a week are you willing to leave your house and go do something that is not one of your focused priorities?
We say yes a lot of times because we’re caught off guard. People ask us at the last minute, or they ask us as we’re leaving something, and they catch us off guard. Prepare yourself with a phrase just for that situation. You could say, “That sounds like something I’d be really interested in, but I just don’t have time right now to make a decision,” or “That sound like something I’d be interested in, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it the time it deserves.” Even if you have the ability to do it, or the time to do it, you should only say yes to the things that you really want to say yes to.
Saying no does not mean you’re a bad person. You’re not a poor planner, you’re not a bad person at all. It doesn’t even mean you’re over scheduled. On the contrary, it really means you’re taking care of yourself and focusing on your main priorities.
Sometimes it helps to have a couple good excuses in your pocket. I’m going to give you five good excuses you can use to say no. Don’t worry, I’ll have these listed in my show notes so you can print them off to keep them in your planner or keep them in your purse, any time you need to reference these. You can find the show notes at Inkwellpress.com/podcast and then go to Episode Seven.
Good excuse number one. Blame it on your budget. “I’m so sorry, that doesn’t fit in my budget at this month, but I really appreciate the invitation.” That’s a great one when somebody asks you to grab drinks after work and you really don’t want to go.
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Good excuse number two. Blame it on your schedule. “Oh that sounds like something I’d love, unfortunately I’m so over committed right now, but thank you so much for thinking of me.”
Good excuse three. Blame it on somebody else. “Oh, you know what? We would really enjoy that event but that’s our family night and I know that-” … your husband, your child, whoever, “-is really looking forward to it. I just can’t cancel.” Or, “I promised my husband I wouldn’t take on any new projects right now.” Feel free to blame it on somebody else.
Good excuse number four. Blame it on exhaustion. “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m going to keep that night open. I’m usually really tired on Monday nights and I really need that time to relax and recharge for my family.”
Good excuse number five. Are you ready for this? This is Earth-shattering. Just say no. Say it with a smile. Always sound friendly. Did I sound unfriendly in any of those excuses I gave? You can say it in a really nice way, but you really don’t even have to give an explanation of why something doesn’t work for you. Just say, “No, thank you,” and say it nicely.
What I want to encourage you to do is don’t tell people to check with you later. That’s going to open the door for them to ask you again and again and to be worn down, and that’s exhausting. Don’t push it off on someone else, unless you know that somebody else that would really be passionate about that. Don’t tell them, “Oh, I can’t do it, but Sally over there can.” Don’t do that, that’s not fair to that other person. Do not over apologize, because it is okay to say no. Once you’ve said no, don’t second guess the decision. You’ve made it, and move on.
Heres how I want to leave you. I want to leave you with this. The things we’re saying yes to when we say no, we’re saying yes to quality time with our loved ones and our friends. We’re saying yes to making yourself a priority. We’re saying yes to
having a reasonable workload. We’re saying yes to being in control of your own schedule. I want to encourage you to say no when you want to. Find ways to delegate some of these items on priority three, or get rid of them altogether. We want to make time for you to be able to say yes to the things that are important to you.
As I mentioned before, we are going to be talking a lot more about saying yes in the next episode, because saying yes is a fabulous word and it can feel really, really good to say when it is your yes. That is the key, finding your yes. That is what we will be talking about next time, in our next episode.
Okay, I hope this little pep talk has helped. It’s a good excuse to say no to the things that are not important to you. Again, I encourage you to check the show notes at inkwellpress.com/podcast, and go under episode seven to find those good excuses and print them off. Keep them handy for when you need them. All right, I’d love to connect with you. You can always find me at inkwellpress.com or you can look for me on social media. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram- pretty much
anywhere else you can imagine, under the name inkwell press. Until next time, happy planning!
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a woman productivity keynote speaker, productivity expert and author. Her talks are motivating women with time management, habits and goals.