Do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to things because you’re worried you will miss out on an opportunity or because you want to keep people around you happy? Does it maybe feel easier to say ‘yes’ than to say ‘no’?
The problem with saying ‘yes’ to everything and everyone is that it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. It can mean that you end up doing less of what you love. And ultimately, it can actually hurt your business and your relationships.
In this blog, I am going to share the four steps you need to take to start saying ‘no’ to what doesn’t serve you and ‘Hell yes!’ to the things that truly bring you joy and fulfillment – and which let you grow your business at your own pace.
This blog is part of my Slow Challenge series and is a summary of a related podcast episode.
There’s a lot of pressure to say ‘yes’. We are taught that being an entrepreneur is all about chasing opportunities and so we say ‘yes’ because more opportunities are supposed to mean more growth and revenue. And if you’re also saying ‘yes’ to everything in your personal life, you will end up with no energy to deal with your business! Clearly, I believe in turning challenges into opportunities – it’s the Tandem Nomads motto – but here is the big thing that so many people miss.
Being open to opportunities does NOT mean saying yes to everything.
It means consciously and methodically assessing the opportunities that come to you and choosing whether to say ‘no’ or ‘Hell Yes!’ on your terms. You have to stop saying ‘yes’ to what does not serve you or your business and start focusing on those things that bring you results and that give you the sort of business and life you really want.
Here are my four big steps to help you know when to say ‘yes’ with genuine enthusiasm and ‘no’ without shame or guilt.
I have designed a free workbook to help you go deeper into each of these four steps and tailor them to your life and business.
Step 1: Define your priorities
How can you be sure about what to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to if you are not clear on what matters most to you? You need to clearly define your priorities for your business and your life. For example, if you have children and one of them needs some extra time and attention right now, that’s your priority and it is OK that your business is not such a big focus. What you can do is set yourself some smaller goals for your business so that you can keep growing it even in these circumstances. Growing at a slower pace is still progress! Here are two examples of things you could do when you cannot give your business as much attention:
- Grow your mailing list: even creating a small piece of content every two weeks and sharing it will help you gain exposure for your business
- Build relationships: set aside time to build and grow relationships with some key members of your network
Once you know what your priorities are for your life and your business, you can start to make more informed decisions about which opportunities are right for you.
Step 2: Analyze what you are saying ‘yes’ to currently that is not serving you
Do you say ‘yes’ to everyone who wants to have a call with you, without thinking about whether doing that will leave you enough time for your business and your life? Are you doing things in your home which could be shared with your partner or another family member? Are you the friend that everyone else relies on to take care of things and do them favors at short notice? Perhaps you are volunteering and it is taking so much time and you’re not really enjoying it.
If even one of these resonates with you, then it is time to pause and reflect on what you are saying ‘yes’ to. Make a list. Think about what you’re saying ‘yes’ to in your business and in your personal life. So often it is the things we say ‘yes’ to in our personal lives that mean we have no time left to focus on our business growth.
One of the reasons that you might be saying ‘yes’ to things that just take your energy and time without giving you anything is FOMO. Your Fear of Missing Out on opportunities is leading you to say ‘yes’ without stopping to think about whether it is really useful, helpful, or valuable to you.
Once you have made your list, it is time to start eliminating the things that do not align with your priorities. You either need to find a way to stop altogether or find a solution where you don’t have it do it yourself or where you can do it in a different way.
And by the way, those calls you’re jumping on just in case it’s a potential customer or opportunity, they should not be more than 30 minutes. If they are, there is something going on in your business that you need to address. If you offer an initial discovery call or opportunity, make sure you have a strategy for them so that you are giving a potential client what they need to know to decide if they want to work with you and equally importantly, what you need from them to be sure they are the right fit for you.
Step 3: Practice saying ‘no’
Once you know what you need to stop saying ‘yes’ to, it is time to work on saying ‘no’. The first person to practice on is yourself! You need to be strict with yourself about saying ‘no’ to those things that you do that don’t serve your priorities.
Saying ‘no’ to other people is hard. You need to be able to give a clean ‘no’. Here are my tips for doing that
- Be confident about your decision – don’t let FOMO or guilt stop you from focusing on your priorities
- Use business consultant and author Michael Hyatt’s ‘yes/no’ approach. Say ‘yes, thank you for the opportunity but I cannot accept.’ And then offer an alternative
I used this approach all the time. Recently I was asked to speak at an online summit. One of the conditions was that I had to contribute to promoting the summit in a certain number of newsletters and social media posts. I knew doing that was not aligned with my priorities at the time. Accepting that I would have to turn down this opportunity was hard but I realized that it was more my FOMO than it being a real business opportunity. So I used the ‘yes/no approach’. I thanked the organizers for the opportunity, explained I could not commit to their conditions and offered to participate without doing the promotion if they wanted me to.
There are times when the ‘yes/no approach’ doesn’t work. At some point, we are all asked to do something for free or to give our advice for free, often by friends or family. There are times when that is fine. But there are also times when you need to be clear about your boundaries and you need to be able to say ‘no’. I know this is can be really tough so I have a whole podcast episode dedicated just to this topic.
One of the things that you need to be clear about is that when someone asks you for advice or time or work that is going to take your time and energy, you need to be able to either say ‘no’ or charge for it. Sometimes, that is the best way to answer – simply explain that you would love to help and share the price you charge for this type of work/time.
Ultimately, getting to a clean ‘no’ is about understanding your priorities and setting clear boundaries to protect them and yourself.
Step 4: Start saying ‘yes’ to the things that serve you
Now that you hopefully know how and when to say ‘no thank you’, you need to work on knowing what brings you joy and excites you so you can do more of it. If you want more ease, fulfillment and satisfaction from your business and your life, you need to do more of what you love.
It won’t be fun all the time but I do believe that if you’re in your business for the long haul, it needs to be fun at least some of the time! I want you to be mindful and intentional about seeking day-to-day activities in your business and your life that bring you joy and that also bring growth and revenue to your business. It might be happy clients or collaborations that really inspire you and ignite your passion as well as driving results. It is possible to have both!
I encourage you to experiment to find out what works best for you. When you start to see positive patterns, stick to them. Keep focused on your priorities and your goals and set boundaries that help you have the business and life you want.
To learn more about how to identify your priorities and when to say ‘no, thank you’ and ‘HELL, yes!’, make sure to download the free workbook that supports this blog. You can find it here.