Your Time

Increase control of your personal and business life by learning to say no

By Fiona Collie |

If you don't say no to some commitments or responsibilities, says Eileen Chadnick, principal and certified coach with Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto, you could start to feel burned out. As a result, you may have difficulty giving your best effort to your work.

There are many reasons people have a hard time turning down requests from team members, managers, friends and family, says Chadnick. These can include a number of fears:  of disappointing others; that opportunities will not be offered in the future; that there will be negative repercussions; or a simple discomfort with saying no.

Follow Chadnick's advice on how to say no and feel comfortable doing so when it is justified:

1. Treat saying ‘no' as a skill
Get into the right frame of mind by recognizing the importance of turning things down occasionally.

Being able to say no to some tasks is an important skill to develop, says Chadnick, which will help you to navigate pressures at the office and at home.

2. Scrutinize your habits
Turn off the autopilot by thinking about why you take on too many tasks and responsibilities.

Sometimes we say yes to things and we don't even realize it, says Chadnick. 

Pay attention to what's going on when you agree to things, she says. Look for the triggers when you say yes and the reasons behind the yes.

For example, perhaps you always say yes when a manager asks you to help out with something in the office, such as a charitable event, because you are concerned about the potential for negative repercussions. 

Once you identify when you go into that autopilot-mode, Chadnick says, challenge some of your assumptions about why you have to say yes. For example, do your fears actually reflect the reality or is this an opportunity to say no? 

3. Know your priorities
Feel confident saying no by focusing on the specifics of  your professional and personal priorities.

You will always have certain obligations and responsibilities, says Chadnick, whether it's ensuring that you are able to provide exceptional client service or making time for your family.

In order to make choices about saying no, it's key to be aware of your own priorities.  For example, if you need to dedicate time to returning phone calls in a timely manner or following up on client meetings, you may not have time to organize a charity event for the company.

4. Make exceptions when necessary
Some times of the year are busier than others, so make sure the boundaries you set for yourself reflect that reality.

For example, while you might be unwilling to take on additional tasks during the RRSP or tax seasons, says Chadnick, you might be more than willing to help out with things, such as a charity event, in the summer months.

Or ,you might have to break your usual rule of not working on the weekends, she says, in order to handle the demands of a busy RRSP season.

"[Leave yourself] wiggle room," she says.  "Know when it's time to have a little bit of flexibility."