I felt compelled to jot this sentiment down here since it seems like everyone around me finally started to recover from their holiday hangovers. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things myself. After time off, it may seem inappropriate or invoke feelings of guilt to decline projects or tasks that come around. But becoming a “yes man” can do more harm than good sometimes. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way more than a few times. I’ll still relapse every now and then and bite off a bit more than I can chew, but I just have to remember that I’m only human… And that I need to do things like sleep and shower to keep me sane enough for the next day.
Ironically, learning how to say no has allowed me to become even more productive, despite taking on fewer assignments. Know why? Because if I don’t have a million and a half things to do, life becomes less stressful. Less stress allows me to focus better on the things that do matter. It also prevents me from binging on Taco Bell because of the self-induced time crunch I’ve put myself into because I haven’t carved out time to pack a proper lunch or dinner. Saying no isn’t just good for my physical health either, it is also wonderful for the soul. How nice and liberating it feels to not be compelled to help people all the time, 24/7.
That being said, I understand that there are goals to be accomplished. It’s the new year, and everyone is on that New Year’s Resolution bandwagon right about now, trying to keep to new commitments or changes that will be beneficial in the long run. But old habits also have a tendency to die hard.
If one of your resolutions in 2019 is to take care of yourself, I’d highly recommend starting with this magical word. And look, you don’t have to be an ass about saying no to things (unless you really want to, I’m not judging you). There’s plenty of ways to decline politely and with grace.
Here are some baby steps to get started:
1. Say the actual word out loud.
Not something like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so”… Just “no” should suffice. If no seems too harsh, you can also try some other decently firm options:
“Not for me, thank you.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“Thanks, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.”
2. Save the explanation.
This will save both time and energy. You also don’t want them to try to find a way around a fabricated excuse to try and win you over. Sure, the whole “my kid is sick” thing can work, but only so many times before someone starts to question what you could be feeding them.
3. Remember opportunity costs.
Nothing comes free. What would it cost to take on another request? Sleep? Money? Time? That desperately needed venti quadruple shot caramel macchiato from Starbucks? The choice is yours. Would it be worth it?
4. Don’t procrastinate.
Sure, you can hold off your official answer if you’re not sure about your decision yet, but this will only satisfy whoever you’re answering to temporarily. They’ll be back.
5. Keep your boundaries in check.
If you’ve said no once already, don’t be afraid to say it again. If they start to be pushy or rude about it, then you can just ignore them. Or be rude back. Whatever is your style, I guess. Just remember to reinforce your position. Don’t be a doormat.
If this happens to be a work thing, and your supervisors are asking you to tackle more than you can handle at the moment, you can always say something like “I’m game to take on this project, but I would need a few weeks to get it done right. How would you like me to tackle this while working on tasks A, B, and C?”
7. Go on, be selfish.
I get it. It can still be hard sometimes to say no, especially when it happens to be towards your toddler who is now throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store because you wouldn’t get them a candy bar. Or when your mother in law tries to guilt trip you for the 10th time this month. Remember to put your needs first and take care of yourself.
Go on, embrace your inner Ron Swanson.