Originally posted on the Forbes website by Stephanie Chandler, Contributor, excerpts below:
Several years ago I looked at my over-flowing calendar and realized I was completely overwhelmed. Juggling the demands of my business, family, and daily life was just more than I could handle any longer. As a devoted People Pleaser, I was faced with a dilemma. I had to start saying no, and it wasn’t going to be easy. I decided to start by taking an inventory of my commitments to figure out what could be trimmed from the schedule. First on the list: all those darn networking meetings I was attending. I figured out that I already knew plenty of people in town and that they would probably still refer business to me, even if we didn’t see each other several times per month. Besides, I was also generating a lot of business online so freeing up the time spent on local networking would give me more time to focus on internet marketing.
Next on the chopping block: coffee dates, especially the ones generated by all that networking I was doing. It seemed that once I exchanged business cards with someone, it led to an immediate invitation for coffee or lunch. And many of those meetings involved listening to a pitch for vitamins or insurance or credit card processing services. I also realized that more often than not, I simply didn’t enjoy those meetings.
Cutting out most networking events and nearly all coffee and lunch dates left me with significantly more time in my schedule, but I didn’t stop there. I also realized I had been speaking at events that weren’t a good fit for me, and I needed to do a better job of vetting those invitations. And so I revisited my business goals and my target audience. When I received an invitation to speak to a group, I looked to see if it aligned with my goals and desired audience. If it didn’t fit in with my plan, I declined.
How to Actually Say No?
While all of this sounds dandy, you might be wondering how to go about declining invitations or actually uttering the words “no, thank you.” I will admit that it took some practice. I found it uncomfortable to decline invitations at first, but it did get easier. Here’s an example:
Bob Brainpicker: “I’ve been thinking about writing a book. Can we meet for lunch so I can get some advice from you on how to do that?”
Me: “Unfortunately, I’m unable to accept lunch or coffee invitations, though I can answer some questions for you via email. Also, attached is a list with my consulting rates in case you’re interested in receiving some ongoing support.”
It has been several years since I developed my personal Just Say No campaign, and it has been wildly successful. I have far more time in my day for productive endeavors, and have given myself permission to release the guilt of possibly disappointing people. It turns out that most people not only understand this focus, they admire it. I figure that the ones who don’t aren’t meant to be in my hemisphere anyway. And as it turns out, I was right about my local networking groups. The referrals kept on coming after I left and I saved loads of time by not driving all over town to meetings each week. I still accept invitations from actual friends for lunches and coffee dates so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on social connections. And you know what? I enjoy and appreciate time with my real friends a whole lot more. And just to be clear, I also meet with prospective clients. I just make sure to qualify them before scheduling an in-person meeting on my calendar.
Here is the most exciting result of all of this: I work less and earn more. When I got more focused on my time and put some boundaries around how I spent it, my productivity went through the roof and revenues followed. With the New Year upon us, now is a great time to assess your goals and challenges and decide what you want to change. I bet if you look hard enough, you will find some commitments that no longer serve you. And you can resolve to practice the art of saying no in 2013, while you increase revenues in the process.
Click HERE to read the entire article from the Forbes website.