Say “No” When Your Plate if Full

Saying NO is a complete sentence. It doesn’t require explanation or justification.

Saying NO takes guts… but why?

I have learned from watching and listening to my 1.5-year-old son that there really isn’t an art to learning how to say NO. We are born with the ability to say NO. Watch any little kid, it’s not hard for them to determine what they want and what they don’t. As you get older you are taught to agree, conform and oblige others but at what expense?

I am certain this is a skill I will forever be working on because I am a people pleaser.

It’s okay to say no. I’m going to say it a little louder for the people in the back… ITS OKAY TO SAY NO.

There are so many things that I don’t want to do. So stinkin’ many. Some of them, unfortunately, benefit me so I will continue to do them. Some of these activities include taking my vitamins, exercising, eating healthy and going to sleep on time.

There are, however, a lot of times when it’s okay to say no. You can say no to anything that doesn’t benefit you and you just don’t want to do.

Here are some of my favorite things that I have started to decline so that I can use my time for things that I want and need to get done:

  • Cleaning up after company parties. I usually bring a dish and sometimes even help set up so that’s a big N.O. from me. I have found that sneaking out about 3/4 of the way through the event makes saying no to being on the clean-up crew a lot easier.
  • I love learning and hate it when I attend conferences and webinars and am asked to be “the main notetaker”. Why? I would rather engulf myself in the information than take notes for everyone else. They couldn’t even take the time out of their day to attend. I spend all my time on my notes and can’t take in the info.
  • Pulling together presentation decks/print-outs/folders. When I first started my career I always got stuck with this task because I’m organized and a sucker for visual presentation. I was the best at printing out paper, stapling every sheet at the same angle and aligning them perfectly straight in their branded folders just for them to get tossed in someone’s briefcase, shuffled around and then quickly passed out at meetings. I would spend so much time trying to impress my boss with my skills and it always went unnoticed. Looking back, my skills probably didn’t matter at all. I was just the only one who didn’t put up a fuss when this task was being delegated out. I will now leave this task up to someone at OfficeMax.

When I commit to something I always go all in and I don’t have time to commit to everything, so I have had to become more conscious about what I am committing to. I have learned to respect people that say they don’t have time (or don’t want) to do something instead of looking at them negatively. They know their boundaries and I respect that.

It’s hard to say no if you don’t know your limits. Once you can outline your priorities then it becomes easier to decline anything that doesn’t fit in those guidelines. If you are up for a challenge, I recommend you get out a sheet of paper and write down every time you say no for the next week. Then on the back of that paper, write down every time you say yes. At the end of the week highlight all the times you said yes that you wished you said no. It’s a lot more than you think. Can you imagine the time you would have saved? When you become aware of when you decline to do something you will realize there are probably a lot of things you are doing out of pure habit.  Slowly start chipping away at your list. Free yourself up for the things you want to do and allow yourself to approach your career and live the life the way you want to.

I will note that there is a big difference between knowing your boundaries and acting entitled. I never have a problem getting in the trenches with my team if something needs to get done. Having an all hands-on deck approach is always the best approach.

Just because you have a higher title than others doesn’t mean you will never have to get your hands dirty. If you want to rub me the wrong way, that’s a good place to start. You should never say “that’s below my paid grade” or “I get paid too much to do this”. If there is something that needs to get done and you have a team of people digging their heels in to get the work done and you don’t have another fire to put out, then you damn well better be working with them to make the goal a reality.


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