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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

CEO Insider

5 ways to say No without using the “N” word

With the global fight against COVID-19 you are most likely working from home right now, possibly with kids in tow. You thought working from home during school holidays was challenging – at least during ‘normal’ school breaks you can invest in some uninterrupted work time by putting the kids in a holiday program. Not so in a period of social isolation. So, just how do you manage your time productivity in these extraordinary times?

Number 1: you need to start saying No

Adjust Your Mindset

It can be hard, almost excruciatingly so, to turn down a request because we are programmed to want to help.

Rather than jumping in with an immediate Yes to requests for help, remind yourself that every time you say Yes to someone:

you are saying No to yourself; and

you are conditioning those around you (your kids, colleagues, team) to depend on you rather than finding solutions for themselves

Don’t confuse problem solving with the need to take on endless amounts of work. It’s all about prioritising, delegating and rejecting. From now on when requests come your way looking for a solution, respond with: ‘What do you think you should do?’

Start conditioning those around you to create solutions for themselves.

Establish a Time Budget

You have a Financial Budget – a set amount of money to invest over the next 12 months for the greatest return. If there are competing opportunities, you weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and allocate your resources wisely. You can’t overspend against your budget because once the money runs out you are in the red.

It’s time to establish a Time Budget – after all your time is money. Like your financial budget, there needs to be a cap; you want to invest your time for the greatest possible return; and you need to constantly assess your choices to determine what is a good, or poor, time investment.

This way, instead of thinking that you have to say Yes or No to each opportunity, the question is really: Do I want to invest my time or do I need to decline? 

Buy Yourself Time

Caught on the hop by a request? Buy yourself time to genuinely assess the opportunity so that you don’t rush into a decision that you later regret. Use a response such as: ‘Thanks for thinking of me. Let me check my calendar and come back to you’.

Manage Expectations

You are busy. How do you manage your current priorities let alone squeeze more in? A great strategy is to ask the person making the request to help allocate your priorities. Not only does this give them a sense of what you have on your plate, it allows you to manage their expectations without a straight out No.

Try this with your kids: ‘I have 3 things I need to do for work today. I can stop and play with you right now for 20 minutes OR if you can wait one hour for me to finish everything then you can have me for the rest of the day! You choose…’

Try this with your boss: ‘I am currently working on projects A, B and C. How would you like me to re-prioritise these projects to fit in project D?’.

Talk Deadlines

If all else fails, my fail-safe go-to No strategy (without even using the N word) is:

Thanks for thinking of me. I’m working to a deadline at the moment, but if anything changes I’ll come back to you.

Let’s break this down:

*Thanks for thinking of me: it’s polite and tells the requester you’re grateful for the opportunity

*I’m working to a deadline at the moment: these words seems to terrify people, who will nod understandingly while backing away

*but if anything changes: leaves the door open if you change your mind

*I’ll come back to you: stops the requester chasing you.

If you are working from home, now is the perfect time to start flexing your No muscle. And if you exercise it daily, by the time your kids go back to school and you emerge from quarantine, your No reflex will be well and truely conditioned.


Written by Kate Christie. Have you read?
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Kate Christie
Kate Christie is a time management specialist, best selling author, global speaker and the founder and CEO of Time Stylers. Her fourth book, Me First: The Guilt-Free Guide to Prioritising You (published by Wiley), is available in all good book stores. Kate Christie is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.