Saying ‘NO’ is the most powerful thing you can do, but sometimes you have to learn to say no and what you should be saying no to.
Humans are naturally social. We want to help others and feel uncomfortable refusing requests. It is always easier to say ‘yes’. It makes us look better and we feel better when we are helping others. Yet, sometimes, saying yes too much can leave us stretched too thin and people begin to expect it of us. For this reason, it’s important to learn to say no to certain people and things.
When we learn to say no, we take control of our own lives. It puts us back in the driver’s seat and lets us live the lives we want to be living. It doesn’t make us selfish, we can choose who to help and when.
When we learn to say no in social situations, we also learn how to say no to ourselves. This can help us to be stricter with ourselves and become much more effective at work and in personal goals.
Working on learning to say no to each of these unhealthy habits one at a time will help you in learning to say no to others, then to yourself.
Helping others when you’re stressed
It’s natural to want to help others, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of your own work. When you have your own work piling up, you shouldn’t feel the need to add more with the work of others.
Learn to say no when your workload is full. Explain that you can’t take anything more on right now, but that you are happy to help once things have eased up a little.
People make excuses when they don’t have a real reason for performing unsatisfactorily. We don’t want to think that people are making excuses because we want to believe the best in people. But if you want to succeed, you need to learn to say no to excuses and accept nothing less than your expectations.
We all love a bit of good gossip, but don’t like hearing that we have been gossiped about, so we should reciprocate for others. It can be hard to learn to say no to gossip, as social animals we build bonds through a mutual dislike of someone.
Rather than saying it behind their back, be honest with them and tell them why they have angered you. It will make you feel much better and is the much more mature response.
Going for coffee in the middle of a workday is a great way to get a welcome break, but there is a thin line between break time and wasting time.
Learn to recognise when a break has turned into wasting time and be a little stricter with yourself and others. You can still have breaks without eating into the time you have for work tasks.
Waiting when you don’t need to
When we ask things of others, we can’t always expect it right away. Waiting is something we are used to, but we shouldn’t have to wait when we don’t need to.
If it is possible to do a task yourself, or you think someone is taking longer than they need to, learn to address it. Give others a reasonable deadline and follow up with them. By setting boundaries, you will find that things will be done much more efficiently.
The workplace should reflect your work mindset. When your workplace is tidy and organised, you will find that your thoughts will be much clearer also.
Take ten or fifteen minutes before you start work to organise your space and you will find that you will be much more efficient. Accept that your desk will get messy as you go along, but try to begin with a fresh start and a fresh mind.
Do you really need to organise your bookshelf right now? Is it essential to colour code your post-it notes? It might make you feel more efficient, but you’re actually just wasting time.
Wasting your time on useless tasks wastes your time and energy. Learn to prioritise the things that really matter and complete less important tasks when you have time to do so.
We work best when we are focussed. This means that we need to minimise any and all possible distractions. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent and let yourself get into the flow of your task.
Mixing work tasks and life tasks
Do you find yourself doing work things at home and home things at work? It is natural to experience some crossover. However, there should be a clear separation of what should be done where.
By keeping work out of the home, home will feel more relaxing. Keeping home out of work will allow you to focus better on your career. We are all working on our work-life balances, but clear boundaries make each more enjoyable.
Procrastination is one of the hardest things to learn to say no to. We get caught up in the planning of something rather than the thing itself and we kid ourselves into thinking our useless tasks are just as important.
To focus yourself, make a to-do list of tasks for the day. If you find yourself making up other ‘equally important’ tasks, say no and come back to what is actually important.
It is a challenge to learn to say no, but if we start being stricter with others we will learn to be stricter with ourselves.