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Say No, and Create Space

September 10, 2019
“I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time” – Warren Buffett

Be it at work or at home, meeting the needs of those around us is challenging. It is often our own time that is first to be sacrificed when meeting the demands of everyday life. We live in a time where we can always answer one more email, take on another project, squeeze one more activity into the weekend. “I need to be productive,” or “I’m too busy to make time for myself,” are likely to have been uttered numerous times this year.

Not taking the time to create space, to stop and understand our capacity, has detrimental effects to our well-being and productivity. 

A recent study found that one in three workers (35%) feel they are too busy to take time out for health and well-being activities1. When you are busy you are more likely to make poor time management choices – taking on commitments you can’t handle, or prioritising trifling tasks over crucial ones. Living with one eye on the clock and constantly battling ever increasing demands has been shown to reduce our productivity2 and reduce the compassion we feel towards others3.

It easy to read the facts about why we need to slow down and create more space and time for ourselves but the reality of doing it is very different. One of the most difficult things for many to do is say no. From guilt to incompetence, it can evoke many emotions which are often uncomfortable. However, learning when and how to say "no" can give us more time for what is important while increasing how reliable and authentic we appear. The following three tips will help you to say "no" more often:

  • Reflect on what is important to you: If you truly understand what is important to you and let yourself be known, you will be more reliable and keep your promises. This is not about saying yes to everything, it’s about maintaining your own well-being and living by the values that are important to you, while allowing yourself to be consistent and known to others.

  • Start with the little things: Set aside a few minutes each day to be alone with your thoughts – just 10 minutes a day can help. It clears the mind and helps to prioritise where focus should be placed. What do you feel about a situation or task? Is it essential? Do you really want to go for the after-work networking drink?

  • Don’t make elaborate excuses when saying no: We often feel that we need to defend why we say "no." Saying it because you don’t have the capacity at work is enough or saying no to the meal with friends because you are tired is justified.

Learning to say "no" when you authentically mean "no" is a life skill. For those that it doesn’t come naturally to, and for many it doesn’t, it takes time to develop the ability to authentically say it. However, understanding your own capacity and utilising the power of the word "no" can pave the way for growth and provide our brains and body with an opportunity to re-boot.

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1 Paton, N. (2015). One-third of employees" too busy" for health and wellbeing. Occupational Health & Wellbeing67 (8), 7.

2 Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, no. 8, December 2008, pp. 636-640

3 Dreher, D. E. (2015). Leading with compassion: A moral compass for our time. The psychology of compassion and cruelty: Understanding the emotional, spiritual, and religious influences, 73-87.

Freddie Parry-Jones Freddie Parry-Jones is a Product & Training Consultant at PSI Talent Management International. She enjoys working with individuals to find the best solution for their organisational and personal development goals. With a strong belief that everyone can achieve and excel with the right support, Freddie recognises the value that encouragement and challenge can have on an individual. Freddie believes that by developing our Emotional Intelligence and having a better understanding of ourselves and others allows us to perform at our best, while helping others reach their full potential.