The Art of Saying No

One of the hardest things for me to do is to say “no” to people. It gets me in all sorts of trouble, too. I get over-committed, over-booked, over-stressed in an effort to please everyone all the time.

It’s a common problem – I know lots of people for whom saying “no” is the worst thing they could possibly do. However, there are times when saying “no” is exactly what I need to do. The crazy thing is, 99.9% of the times I have ever said “no” to someone, it’s totally okay. There’s none of the backlash, hurt feelings, and disappointment that I often make up in my own head.

As I get more busy in my business, my personal life and as I continue to grow my online network, I find I am having to say “no” more often. Don’t get me wrong…I have absolutely no issue with helping people when they ask me for it. In fact, I enjoy helping people. That’s why I do it. But there comes a point, where, if it’s too much for me to balance with my job, my family etc., that I have to say that nasty “no”.

I’ve learned that there are techniques for saying “no” gracefully. And the number one way to say “no” to someone nicely is to communicate with them. Seems kind of backwards, since you’re trying to NOT have to do something, but communication is the vital key.

Don’t Ignore. Ignoring and avoidance is the worst thing you can do. The problem with ignoring someone when you should be saying “no” to them is that they think you don’t care. If someone sends you a request or asks you a favour and you just can’t accommodate, better to send a polite response saying why you are unable to fulfill their request than not to respond at all.

What if Volume is an Issue? Feeling overwhelmed by all the people wanting a piece of you? We’ve all been there. I have weeks where my inbox is chock full of people wanting something from me. My voice mail is also full. It’s pretty overwhelming, and my first instinct is to run away and hide. How to deal with volume requests? Well, I hooked up AwayFind on my email, that at least helps me to determine what requires my urgent attention and what doesn’t. But the man who has this one cased is the inimitable Gary Vaynerchuk. You see, if you send Gary an email, he sends you an automated reply. Now, before you go getting all bent out of shape about automated replies..check out what he sends:

Hey, here’s a link that will explain everything!

http://tv.winelibrary.com/garyvs-inbox

Thank you
Gary Vaynerchuk

Click on the link. You get Gary, on a video, explaining how he deals with email, and asking for people’s help in helping him manage his correspondence. He provides contacts for all his online outposts, and contacts for his “people” too. He is saying “no”, and doing it in a personable, polite way.

Delegate delegate delegate. Trying to keep up with responding to everything all the time is impossible if you’re super busy. So find ways to filter information to people who can more easily and quickly help. In essence, what you are doing here is saying “No, I can’t help you, but I’m referring you to this person who I trust to help you.” Of course, you want to make sure that the person you are delegating to is available and willing to say “yes”. Delegation is hard to do – but it’s worth it, always. Just make sure that you have people you absolutely trust on board…because every time you delegate, it’s still your reputation that’s on the line.

So there you have it – these are a few interesting ways that I’ve learned about how to politely decline. We all have times that we have to say “no” to people, and it’s never easy. Please share some techniques that you use when you need to say “no” in the comments.

Oh, and by the way – if you say “no” to someone politely and they get mad at you, start flaming you, or have an otherwise negative reaction, before you feel bad about it…consider whether they were worth helping in the first place.

Let It Be

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.”
                                                                         –Paul McCartney

We are all leading busy lives, balancing work, travel, family, home life, and more. The economy is falling to pieces. Our politicians are in an uproar, throwing daggers at each other on a daily basis. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and other tragedies fill the headlines. It’s easy to become overwhelmed.

As concerned as we are about things in our daily lives, there is a point where all the worry and stres of daily life can cease to exist. That point comes in the three simple words that Paul sang so well.

Let it be. 

Hundreds of emails cram your inbox. The cell phone rings off the hook. Everyone wants a piece of you, and they all want their needs to be your number one priority at all times. Your mind is going 100 different directions at 100 miles an hour and there’s no sign it’s going to stop anytime soon. Is it possible to slow down? Yes. But how?

Let it be.

The kids are crying, your spouse is wondering why you are never home, the house is a disaster area. You haven’t talked to your parents or siblings or friends in weeks. Going home is supposed to be a respite from the craziness of work, but you feel a like a stranger in your own family right now. How do you reconnect with the people who are most important to you?

Let it be.

The economy is falling fast. Your retirement savings, your mortgage, even your bank account are all at risk of disappearing. There’s not much comfort in the news headlines either – they keep saying it’s going to get worse instead of better. How is it possible to feel secure in the face of so much insecurity? 

Let it be.

Every day the headlines tell about some other bad thing that has happened in the world. Reports talk about the scandal on the political scene, the abundance of natural disasters, and how global warming threatens our very existence. How can you sleep at night, with all this adversity around you?

Let it be.

In 10 years, 5 years, or 1 year, will any of the chaos that you percieve in your life right now matter? No. It will be a blip on the screen. You can overcome the anxiety you are living by changing your perception. By letting things be as they are. By not worrying about what is going to happen next year, tomorrow, or even in 10 minutes from now. 

All of these things that make your life seem so out of control are that way because they are out of your control! Whether you worry about it or not, clients will continue to make demands of your time. The kids will still cry. Politicians will still argue. Hurricanes will still happen. And, your friends and family will still love you. 

So, at the end of the day, isn’t it just better to simply let things be? 

Let        it          be.

UPDATE: Check out what Robert Hruzek is doing over at his blog this month, Middle Zone Musings. His theme this month is What I’ve Learned from Stress, and he’s asking people to send him links to their posts about managing stress. Check it out!!!

Overcoming The Busy

I am Busy this week. Aren’t we all? Here’s a synopsis of some of what is on my to do list: Research, write and submit two proposals, meet with at least 3 advertisers, record, edit and publish a podcast for GeekGrls, post a bunch of ideas on my blog, come up with my lesson plans for school which starts in a little over 3 weeks, follow up with current clients. And oh, yah…crank out at least 2 scripts for a television show. And it’s only Tuesday. Of course, that doesn’t count the personal stuff I need to get done.

Busy is great – I wouldn’t have it any other way. But Busy can go two ways – you can either let it get the best of you (and end up curled up in the corner in the fetal position for the rest of the day), or you can embrace it.

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are a few tips for overcoming the Busy in your life:

1) Find a partner in crime. I have a business partner. Half of the stuff we get done on a weekly basis wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have each other. We both have crazy lives outside of work and crazy deadlines inside of work. We rely on each other immensely during the Busy. Finding someone to split the workload will make you more productive, and ultimately more profitable. Just make sure it’s the right person. My partner and I have spent 13 years building a relationship of mutual understanding and respect. It’s like a marriage of sorts – we have to work at it. Good partnerships are hard to find – but when they work, they work really well. And it helps tremendously knowing there is someone there to share the load.

2) Make lots of lists. Don’t try to keep everything in your head – you will never sleep at night. I can’t stress enough how much lists can help you to over come that overwhelmed feeling. I have multiple lists. My calendar, my white board, my BlackBerry, and my notebook all have different lists for different reasons. There’s no tried and true way – find a system outside of your mental list that works for you.

3) Delegate delegate delegate. One of the main stresses of the Busy is trying to do too much yourself. If your to do list is getting you down, figure out which tasks you can delegate. The biggest task hubby and I outsourced this year was housecleaning. Sure, it costs a bit, but less than you think. And now, the last thing on my mind is having to clean the bathtub or mop the floor. And that makes it worth every penny. So, figure out where you can outsource. Hire an intern. Ask your spouse or kids to help you. Hire a virtual assistant. Still don’t think you can delegate? Read Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek and your mind will be forever changed.

4) Stay in the Now. Perhaps the most important rule for overcoming Busy is to stay in the present moment. Really, the present moment is all we have. All the to do lists in the world cannot make up for the fact that everything on that list is in the future. And the future ain’t here yet. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed thinking of all those things on your list that haven’t happened yet, stop. Sit back. Take some deep breaths. Regain your presence in THIS moment. I promise you will not only feel less overwhelmed, you will enjoy the process of the Busy much more. And read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, it’s life-altering.

At the end of the day, the Busy is good. But managing the Busy is the way to truly get the most out of life and work. How do you manage your Busy?

Overwhelmed?

I woke up this morning with an anxious knot in the pit of my stomach. My thought pattern went much like this:

I’m traveling to Cincinnati at the end of the week, so my mind is racing with everything that needs to happen before we leave Thursday night. There is a ton of stuff to do to get ready for the trip. (passports, health insurance info, video equipment, laptop, clean socks, toothbrush etc. etc. etc). Drop the dog off at the kennel. Drop the other pets off at their Grandparents’ house. Get pet food. Get fish feeder block. Pack. Figure out how to fit all our crap in the Jeep.

And that’s just the trip preparation. Then there’s work! I have to write a proposal, co-write at least one episode of our show, finish some web content, follow up on umpteen proposals and advertising contracts, develop navigation for a new web site, and make sure our design team has enough to keep them busy while we’re away.

All of this occured to me within about 30 seconds of waking up this morning. No wonder I am anxious.

I sat at the computer, heart palpitating at the thought all I had to do, and what email demands were awaiting to distract me from those tasks. My eyes hit Chris Brogan’s post about Drowning almost immediately. Sometimes hearing about someone else who is feeling similarly can allow a different perspective to flood in. It worked, snapping me out of my ego-minded selfish way of thinking. “Hey, I’m not the only person in the world with a long to do list,” I thought to myself. “How am I going to handle it?” I sat back, took a deep breath, and reminded myself of how I deal with extreme busy-ness.

I’m really in to top ten lists lately, so here’s my top ten list of things anyone can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Make a list on paper. Prioritize the list, and schedule when you will accomplish certain tasks.
  2. Once you’ve scheduled a task, don’t think about it again until it’s time to do it.
  3. Re-write the list when necessary. Check things off and don’t worry about them once they are done.
  4. Don’t be afraid to do like Chris did, and ask not to be disturbed. 99% of people will respect that. If they don’t, ignore them.
  5. Turn off the distractions. No email, no CrackBerry, no phone calls until you’ve accomplished a certain task.
  6. Minimize distractions, but don’t wait till 5pm to check your day’s worth of email. That will only overwhelm you more. Make time right after lunch to spend 1/2 an hour dealing with email. File anything you can’t address within 1 or 2 minutes and deal with it when the rush is over. If you have to, send a quick reply telling the person when you will be able to get back to them.
  7. Take a break. The world will wait while you spend 45 minutes to take a walk, do some yoga or have lunch with your spouse. Don’t think about your lists while you are on your break.
  8. Sleep. Nobody is asking you to stay up all night. If you need to rest, even for a couple of hours, do it. You will be much more productive if you aren’t exhausted.
  9. Eat. If you don’t eat, your brain won’t work. Your blood sugar will crash leaving you emotional and frustrated. Make sure you get protein and veggies. And a Big Mac doesn’t count as protein and veggies.
  10. This too shall pass. You WILL get through your list. The crazy busy time will end. You WILL get to take a break. And you’re not alone. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes.

Anything you’d add to the list? How do you avoid getting overwhelmed?

I’m off to get cracking on my list now. Happy Monday!

Photo credit: bourgeoisbee on Flickr.