Learning to say NO

YESYes.  I am ardent about the power of that word.  I am always telling my clients to talk about what they can do rather than complain about what they can’t.  I (sometimes foolishly) believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to do.  Whatever I say yes to. And so, I say yes to most things.  At least I do in my professional life.  But lately I’ve been But It Doesn't Say No Cameras...thinking that sometimes I need to say no.

No to the clients who really don’t want to do the work.  The ones who think that by hiring me their problems are solved.  And no to the people who just want to pick my brain--at a restaurant or coffee shop near them but miles from where I need to be.  No to the projects that are doomed to fail, no matter how hard we try or how much work we put into it.  And no to working with people I neither like nor respect.

It’s hard.  Yes is my default.  Sure I can do that, I always say and then do whatever I have to in order to be successful.

Yes, I can meet.  Yes, I can talk.  Yes, I can take on yet another assignment.

But lately I’ve been thinking about the things I haven’t done because I’ve been working.  The time I haven’t taken to nourish that other part of me.  And while I don’t want to stop what I am doing, I do want to do more of what makes me sing.  Well, maybe not sing--I’m famously tone deaf.  But you know what I mean.

Doing that, I’ve discovered, means more than simply saying no.  It means thinking--really thinking--about what I want to accomplish.  It means considering how I want to spend my time.

For me, for my work, that means thinking about how I can most successful and productive.  I imagine it is the same for you.

There’s an exercise I like to do with clients who are embarking on something new or looking to refresh what it is that they have been doing.

First, consider what it is you want to accomplish. Write it down.  Then ask yourself, what do I need to start doing in order to reach my goal?

Now that you are adding things to your plate, what do you need to stop doing so you have the bandwidth to accomplish the new things?

And then, get real—what must you continue doing?  Sometimes, things on your stop list will end up here.  That’s where you must get creative:  How can you ensure that these things that you want to stop doing continue to get done?  Can you assign them to someone else?  Can you simplify what you have been doing and still get good results?   Will doing this task more or less frequently work?  Think out of that stupid box we all end up in and consider it all.

And then, pick a date to begin whatever it is you have to start doing.  Put it on your calendar.

By doing this, you can say No to things that are not important any more, and yes to those that will get you to the place you want to be.




Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to go from mired to inspired.  Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, say yes to signing up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free, 30-minute consultation. And now, buy Janet’s new book, Compelling Conversations for Fundraisers.