Time Management – Saying No When We Need To

7K_Intro_02One of the hardest things to learn in time management is how – and when – to say no.

As communicators, we always want to be helpful and almost feel that we owe it to others when they need something. The problem is that this time spent helping others often takes away from the things we really should be doing for our business’ success. Saying no doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from them or denying the help they need; as good time management practice, it just means setting boundaries, and earning respect for those boundaries, so that our time doesn’t disappear. People who request our time need to understand that when we say no, they know that we mean it and that we’d really like to help… but at THIS time, we just CAN’T. What I’ve always found is that when I find ways to accommodate these kinds of requests as often as possible, then, when I have to say NO, I get the respect for my time that I need.

The Truth about Saying No

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

But when we’re able to say no to others, this shows that we value our time. It sets a value that others recognize; and when we value our time, others will too.

It’s important to realize 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… and helping them would force you to not give proper attention to their work, but your own work will probably suffer also.

Best Way to Say No?

Be brief, direct and honest and don’t leave it open to debate. We need to tell the requester why we’re unable to help… but keep it simple. For example, say that you’re overloaded 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 bogged down. As I said above, this shows your willingness to help them even though it’s impossible at the moment. Set a specific time, schedule it, and keep to that schedule… but again, be honest. Don’t overextend your future schedule!

If needed, we can be a bit more vague by telling them you’ll think about it and get back to them. But only say this if you really will consider helping them. Honesty, always honesty! Don’t use an empty promise just to get someone to leave you alone. Giving a vague time frame is often the most stress relieving way to handle a request when you’re really overwhelmed with work.

Another effective technique is to be a manager and delegate! If you have the resources available, like freelancers or virtual assistants, accept the challenge and hand it off to someone else – you’re the hero for getting it done, and you haven’t put yourself behind on the rest of your work. The nice thing about this option is that’s how we make ourselves indispensable… we get known as the people who get things done!

And If They’re Not Okay With Your Answer?

All these 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 will take a 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 – that’s your business, not theirs. And of course, if you explain, they’ll just use your explanation to try to wheedle your time out of you – isn’t that what you would do? That’s bad time management practice. Just tell them that you’re too busy at the moment and leave it at that. You don’t owe anyone and explanation unless it’s your direct boss… but if you’ve sincerely tried to meet the interruption challenge, you’ll be the winner.


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