How to Get Ahead By Saying No

How to say no and choose the best opportunities for you and your business

2017 has me feeling like I’ve been shot out of a cannon! This is a good thing, but I am wildly scrabbling in the air with my arms, wondering when the scenery is going to stop passing by at such an alarming rate.

I’ve been getting invitations to speak at conferences, requests for a coffee dates to “pick my brain,” I have four business travel trips coming up, I’m planning workshops, and I filled in last minute to teach at Craftcation. We’ve also just hired two new employees and three new designers. I have turned a lot of things down and I’ve given a hearty YES to a lot of things as well.

It can be easy to say yes and then wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. And sometimes it can be hard to say no, even when you know the invitation is something that’s a good fit for you.

Here are the top things I’ve been coming back to and re-reading to maintain my focus:



Productivity is Really About What You Don’t Do, by J.K. Glei

“The best productivity tip I ever got was the idea of a ‘stop-doing list’ from Jim Collins. In this Age of Distraction, we’re all dodging and weaving between so much incoming information that what you don’t do on a daily basis has become as important—if not more—as what you do execute on.



Best New Year’s Resolution? A Stop-Doing list, by Jim Collins (linked in the above article)

“In perhaps the most famous case, Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark — a man who had prevailed over throat cancer — said one day to his wife: ‘I learned something from my cancer. If you have a cancer in your arm, you’ve got to have the guts to cut off your own arm. I’ve made a decision: We’re going to sell the mills.’”



How to Decline Invitations Without Being a Jerk, by Ramit Sethi

“I used to have an inbox full of things I wanted to say no to but didn’t. I told myself I didn’t want to be rude, but truthfully, I didn’t know how to turn people down politely.”



I Took Great Pleasure in Saying No, by Ramit Sethi

“People pleasing manifests in subtle ways. For example, how many times have you said, ‘Sure, I’ll do that…it can’t hurt.’

And two weeks later, you have to go to some dumb party/event you committed to, which you actually don’t want to go to, and you hate yourself. It can’t hurt. Actually, it can!! There’s nothing wrong with helping other people, but when you start saying ‘yes’ to things that are distracting and drain you of energy, you can’t make the maximum impact on the world.”



Unsubscribe book, by J.K. Glei

“If you tend to be a people pleaser, it’s hard to ignore genuine requests or turn folks away just because you are busy. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to help clarify which emails are real opportunities and which are duds. Perhaps more importantly, they should also help you shift your mindset about who you do and do not owe a response.”



Now, my entire job is based around helping others—and I love it! Where we need to pick and choose is about who and what is a good fit for our time, and for our business as a whole.

You need to make your own priorities for each quarter, month, week, day. Then, when an opportunity comes up, you need to evaluate how much it will detract from your own plans, and how much value you’ll get out of it.

How to decide if you should accept a business opportunity

Here’s how I’ve been deciding lately: I just think, “if it’s not a heck yeah, it’s a hell no!”

Great opportunities are easy to spot, exciting to receive, and I fire off a YES straight away. It’s when I find myself struggling to decide that I realize my trouble is in not wanting to disappoint someone.

The same goes for great clients, great customers, great collaborations. You probably know when you have a winner.

The only tricky bit is mistaking fear for uncertainty. There may be things that you don’t want to do just because you’ve never done them before, you’re feeling shy, or you’re scared of public speaking. Don’t turn down things that are a great fit with your business and your goals because of fear. Say yes before the fear can get you, then work on your courage on the way.

Do you agree? What are you going to say NO (graciously!) to today?

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