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I have touched briefly on how to reject something in a good way in my previous article about dealing with rejection. In this article, I am going to talk about why you should start saying no more often and why delegating is a powerful tool.

Saying no to someone is hard. You do not want to offend the other person and for them to consequently think less of you. So you tend to accept tasks or deals even if you didn’t want to, in an effort to make the other person see you in better terms.

This might sound strange to you, but learning to say no can both improve your mental health and increase someone else’s opinion of you.

By learning how to say no, you are actually clearing up your schedule from unnecessary tasks and low-return work, and you can make sure to actually deliver on all the other things that you need to. This will make you a person of your word: you promise, you deliver.

The problem with accepting all the things

The more tasks you add to your to-do list, the more likely it is that you be unable to complete all of them. That’s the reason why so many people tell you to learn how to prioritise tasks so you can focus your energy on the important things that need to be done.

Adding more and more tasks will just increase the clutter in your head. You will keep thinking constantly about all the stuff that you still need to work on. You will start feeling stressed as the pressure increases. Eventually, something will be left behind.

Imagine the following scenario: you have a bursting to-do list. A friend asks for your help with something that might take a few hours of your time. Because you don’t want to let your friend down, you accept to help him. You get even more stressed and unsure if you will be able to finish all your tasks.

Time passes…

You are unable to finish the task that your friend asked for help with. You also have left five unfinished other tasks, simply because you kept switching from one task to another in an effort to keep things going.

Does this sound familiar? What do you do when this happens to you? Do you come forward and apologise for not being able to help your friend with that task? Or do you just stay quiet, hoping that your friend won’t message you, in an attempt to get more time to finish the task?

Whatever your answer is, your friend will probably be upset with you. He thought you would help him, but you didn’t. It’s even worse if you just ghosted him out and didn’t say anything for a few days. So what should have you done?

Learning how to say no

The solution to the above problem seems obvious. If you just said no to your friend’s request, you wouldn’t let him down. Consequently he wouldn’t be upset with you. He might be unhappy that you told him that you couldn’t help, but at least you didn’t promise something that you couldn’t deliver.

How you tell someone no matters regarding how the other person feels towards you and about that negative reply. If you told your friend that you would love to help, but at the moment you were so busy that you are unable to help, your friend would understand the reasoning and be more accepting. Start off by saying no, then explain why you said no, then say something nice.

The conversation with your friend could go like this:  

“I’d love to help you with x, unfortunately, I’m packed with stuff and I don’t want to promise to help you when probably I won’t be able to deliver in time. X seems to be an interesting thing to work on and I would be happy to help if I had the time.”

With that simple reply, your friend understands that you are quite busy at the moment. That you care about his problem and would love to help him, but you are unable at the moment.

When you really can’t say no

Unfortunately, there will be times when you just can’t say no to something. Let’s say that something bad happened and you need to fix it as soon as possible. Maybe someone pushed changes into production and that broke everything down.

If you just decide to say no and ignore the problem, you will probably be in trouble. Sometimes bad things happen and you have to help. Saying no is not an option.

In these situations, you will feel pretty stressed and you just know that some tasks will be left undone because you had to pool all your energy and focus on this important task.

Other times, your boss will assign something to you and you just won’t be able to say no. You will just have to accept that task and hope that you will have enough time to finish everything off your to-do list. We all have a limited time within a day, so how can you solve this problem?

Prioritise and delegate

The first thing you need to do when dealing with an ever growing to-do list is trying to figure out where you need to focus your energy. You can tick off 20 easy tasks, but if your servers are still down after 8 hours, no one will care about these little tasks.

Take five minutes to scan through your to-do list and prioritise your tasks. This will help you understand what needs to be worked on first. Then try to estimate how long a task will take and then add 30% more to that time. This will help you figure out which skills you can start off when you are waiting for something else. If a task takes five minutes to complete, do it and forget about it.

Now that you have a good idea about which tasks are important, which can be done later and how long everything will take. Think if you can delegate any of those tasks to someone else.

Asking for help is important and will help you manage the stress better. Delegating will also allow you to gain more time to deal with an important task for longer, since you don’t have as many things to work on.

Before you ask for help, you should have a good idea about the other person’s strengths and how busy they are. This will make you more successful when asking for help. There’s no point in asking for someone’s help if they are as busy as you.

As a flight attendant, boarding is probably the most chaotic time of my day. There are always a million things happening at the same time. Often I need to help someone with a bag, answer someone else’s question, remember that someone asked me for something, deal with a problem in the cabin and still be polite and friendly to everyone.

Things can get out of hand at times. But we always know who we are working with and we always work as a team. So when things get out of hand, I always know who can help me. I always try to keep the communication going in these chaotic periods and try to delegate tasks that I am unable to do in the next five minutes.  

The advantages of saying no are undeniable. Saying no allows you to clarify your headspace and focus on what matters to you, which helps you stay in a clearer mental state. In addition, saying no allows you to manage your time better and organize your tasks more appropriately – a key part of building products as an indie maker.

Saying no can be hard, but remember that people will respect you more if you are realistic and honest, than if you promise to deliver something in a time period and then don’t.

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