As little kids growing up, we didn’t think much of hearing the word “no” from our parents, teachers, and others older than us, but now that we are grown, we can appreciate the power of this little word and use it very strategically. There are several times when saying “no” at the right time comes in very handy and is actually the correct tactic to employ.
One of the best ways to use “no” is to protect our time and guard our calendar and schedule – to preserve important time for ourselves and our family. We have so many demands on our time, and it’s easy to over-commit – similar to the way airlines often oversell their flights.
We just keep adding activities and appointments – because saying “yes” seems to be easier than saying “no” at the time. We feel that we are being unpleasant or that we are letting someone down if we say “no,” but ultimately we are the ones who feel badly about our inability to stop saying “yes” to everything that comes along.
If it’s an optional event or something new, and it really doesn’t fit our schedule, the correct response would be “no.” Sometimes it means’ saying “no” for now and postponing an activity or an appointment until later.
Quite often, however, we agree to attend a committee meeting or other events because there is room on our schedule. While convenient, this is not the correct – or fair – way to evaluate the time we have to allocate to accepting such a request. As long as Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 is open on our calendar, we willingly agree to attend a meeting – even though we might not have anything to contribute and we would be doing everyone a disservice by attending. We decide to participate in something just by whether there is an opening on our calendar.
This issue with this strategy is that we haven’t looked at or considered the overall impact on our schedule – the many other events and appointments we already have committed to attending. We only have so many hours each week, and committing to something just because there is room on the calendar may be quite short-sighted.
It might be good for us to add another program – but only when we agree to drop something else to make room for the new commitment on our time. It might be just a one-time event, but meetings like this have a way of becoming on-going regular commitments.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t set appointments with potential clients to discuss new business. We are talking about attending functions and serving on committees where our time might be better served in meeting with existing or potential clients or in producing work that we already have sold.
The people that have invited us to serve or meet with them, or lend our expertise to a new effort, may not approve of our negative response, but it might be necessary at the time. Nevertheless, we might be able to accommodate them and serve on their board or committee by rearranging or adjusting our calendar to remove another commitment first.