I often talk with clients, colleagues and friends about the importance and the power of saying no. In our overscheduled, overcommitted work and personal lives, learning to say “no” can empower us to take our lives back. It’s often a foundational step for people who are overly busy and overwhelmed.
But this isn’t really a post about saying “no.”
It’s a post about saying “yes.” But not just any yes.
The strategic yes
When you start taking back your time by saying “no” to things, what you’re really doing is saying: This isn’t important enough for my time. Or, said another way, my time is too important for me to spend it on this.
When you start to clear your schedule, you make time for what I call the strategic yes.
[bctt tweet=”The strategic yes advances you toward a goal or otherwise aligns with a priority in your life. When you respond to a request with a strategic yes, you are saying: This is important enough for my time.” username=”MettaSolutions”]
Create a personal alignment check
When I work with people on building work-life alignment and improving their time management, we often start by discussing priorities. Say for the sake of argument that my top personal priorities are coaching, writing and practicing self-care. If someone comes to me with a request, I’m going to weigh it against those priorities. Does it interfere with my plans to go for a walk in the woods? I’ll pass. Does it help me as a coach or a writer? Then I’ll likely be replying with a strategic yes.
Life of course can be messy. There are urgent priorities – like a sick loved one – that trump pretty much everything else. There are also political realities, like a request from a boss to take on a project. You could negotiate, but we all know there are times when it’s important to say yes.
For everything else, use the personal alignment check.
Becoming more strategic with your time is tough. In my years in academic medicine, I’ve seen this, year after year. I have watched so many capable new physicians embark on promising careers. What a wonderful, inspiring time – there are opportunities all around.
It can also be a thoroughly overwhelming time, with shiny balls of possibility bouncing in every direction, and a crush of enthusiastic new professionals who want to chase down every one of them through the streets of a busy academic medical center. They may catch one or two of those shiny balls, but many more slip through their fingers.
At the end of the day, all they are doing is playing in traffic and setting themselves up for a painful collision with reality.
When you learn to step back and evaluate each opportunity more critically – against your priorities — you leave behind the rat race of fear of missing out, or FOMO, and reach the more transcendent JOMO, or “joy of missing out.”
When you experience JOMO, a wonderful term I learned from my friend Dr. Sara Jiang, you can appreciate the opportunity from afar and the relief that it’s not on your plate.
Saying “no” so you can say “yes!”
OK, so this post is a little bit about saying “no.” But that’s because the real reason you need to say “no” (besides recovering your sanity) is you need to make space for what you want to say “yes” to. And of course, you need to not play in traffic.
How do you know when to say “yes”?
Last updated September 18, 2018