The One Where: We Learn to Say ‘No’

Saying ‘Yes’ to additional tasks and responsibilities is one of the biggest productivity killers. We like saying ‘Yes’. It makes us feel like we are a team player, makes us feel like we are impressing our bosses, it’s what people like to, and expect to hear, and even the grumpiest of us like to please people. Sometimes it isn’t even to please people, but it is often easier to say ‘Yes’, then ‘No’. ‘No’ is considered an evil word – letting the side down and suggests you are disappointing someone.


Guess what… disappoint them and learn to say ‘No’.


Saying ‘Yes’ to everything is a sure-fire way to leave you stressed, exhausted and unproductive. On top of what you already had on your plate, saying ‘Yes’ to other tasks can take up too much time, resulting in missing commitments and deadlines from your ‘normal’ job, not to mention missing deadlines from these additional tasks.


If this happens, you have gone from a self-considered superhero jumping on all the grenades, to an unreliable member of the team. Any initial kudos from taking on the extra responsibility is gone and replaced by negative feelings. Even if you do manage to meet all the deadlines, at what cost? Late nights/early mornings? Poor quality final products? Or time that could you have spent streamlining existing processes?


Warren Buffet famously said:


“The difference between successful people and really successful people, is that really successful people say No to almost everything”.


This is almost counter-intuitive at first. And this is not to be confused with Richard Branson’s quote “if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say Yes – then learn how to do it later”.


The difference is that Warren Buffet’s quote ends “successful people say No to almost everything”. We must be able to decide with intent, if something is worth saying ‘Yes’ too. For example, if we were offered a promotion, we would probably decide to say ‘Yes’ because it is part of our career plan we have set out and this is what we have been working towards, but if we were asked to work during the weekend, we might say ‘No’ because when we decide, we would consider family time more important, or the specific task not important to us.


Is it Important?


Deciding with intent makes you prioritise, simplify and it draws attention to what is important and what isn’t. So how do you know if something is important? For this, you could use the Eisenhower Matrix.





The Eisenhower Matrix can be used as a decision-making tool to let you decide what is urgent and important. Your attention should be on the important line on the top. The not important line at the bottom should not have your attention, apart from ensuring the current not important tasks do not become important tasks.


Time is valuable


Saying ‘Yes’ takes times away from something else. Ask yourself, ‘is this the best use of my time’, if it isn’t, say ‘No’. You have to be true to yourself, avoid the feeling that you are letting someone down. This can be done in a ‘nice’ way by explaining why you can’t do it but remain assertive.


Will this help in achieving goals?


When asked to complete a new task, ask yourself:


  • Will this task help me progress in my career?
  • Can I complete this without jeopardising my current commitments?


If the answer is not ‘Yes’ to both of these questions, say ‘No’.


Think about it


If the tasks requested could be something you would be interested in saying ‘yes’ to, remember you don’t have to decide right at that time. You can always say ‘let me take a look at it’ and decide if it meets the criteria of saying ‘Yes’ to. Don’t be afraid, when put on the spot, to give an answer different to what is expected.


It’s all about you


Saying ‘No’ is not always easy. But its best for you. You will be less stressed, more productive and we find that when you aren’t running around like your pants are on fire, you are actually more creative. And you will be able to make improvements on things that are important to you.


You will also be able to meet your current deadlines and produce higher quality work – these are things that will boost your profile within the company and help on your career path.


Learn to say ‘No’ – so you can focus of the areas that are important and achieve more.