The power of saying no

The power of saying no

Saying yes is killing your productivity.

Chances are, you’ve agreed to take on a request from a colleague or client only to soon regret it because:

  • Taking on that extra report pushed you over the edge in terms of capacity or stress;
  • You realise that adding the commitment robbed you of needed time to recharge;
  • One more client call shoehorned into your already packed schedule had a domino effect, making you late for remaining appointments and depleting your energy in the process.

Sound familiar? If so, you need to say no more often.

Understanding and, more importantly, applying the power of no is an essential skill to develop because many people have an agenda for you.

Their demands can rob you of the space to focus and the time needed to accomplish your own objectives. Identifying priorities gives you a rationale for saying no to superfluous requests with confidence and conviction.

To determine your criteria and begin harnessing the power of no, follow these three steps:

  1. At the start of each day, determine three to five key objectives — things you’ll say yes to.
  2. Schedule specific blocks of time devoted solely to those tasks.
  3. Protect those times at all costs. Do not check email, take calls, or allow people to interrupt you during those times. Find ways to signal to others that you are unavailable. This may involve closing your door or donning headphones.

Taking five minutes to determine your priorities each morning can supercharge your productivity and enable you to say a more focused yes to the things that help you to achieve your objectives.

Charlie Hugh-Jones ( is a US-based strategist who specialises in helping individuals and organisations become more productive, more purposeful, and more resilient. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Samantha White, an FM magazine senior editor, at