Do More By Saying ‘No’

What’s the magic word when it comes to quality work and productivity? The answer is “no.”

We all want to “wow” our clients and coworkers, which can often lead us to saying “yes” to whatever request they throw our way. On a surface level, this may seem wise. After all, you want to show you’re a good team player, and the customer is always right…right? The truth is that saying “yes” all the time, while satisfying your clients initially, will most likely lead to you producing lower quality work, and it will absolutely increase your stress levels.

For those of us whose business involves pleasing customers, there is a buzz that comes along with their delight when you say “yes” to them. There’s no question about it. But when the “yeses” happen to often, along with that buzz you might feel your shoulders tense up and a sinking feeling in your stomach, because you know you’re offering to do something you aren’t equipped to do, or something you don’t have time to do (or at least do well), or something that simply falls outside the scope of your role, project, or overall business philosophy.

Again, this dynamic only leads to dissatisfaction in the long run, for both you and the customer.

Like multitasking, taking on too many projects impacts your ability to do any of them well. In the age of chronic busyness, when being overloaded with tasks is seen by some as a badge of honor, how do you confidently stand up and say “no” when you need to?

It can take courage. After all, telling a customer “no” is a risk. That customer could respond by telling you to take your services elsewhere. But it’s a risk that’s worth taking to save your sanity and the quality of your work.

Learning to say “no” when you need to benefits you, your organization, and your customers. So, here are a few ideas that should help you sort out when and how to decline a request.

Do More By Saying No: Three Strategies

Step back and evaluate the request: can you do it, and should you? Maintain awareness of your mission, purpose, and organizational ethos as well as your current capabilities. Stand firm in who you are and what you are trying to accomplish — and what you are built to accomplish at the moment. There are plenty of features we want to add to the BlogMutt service, but the fact is we’re still a pretty small company and there are some things we just can’t do yet. We also get some requests that just wouldn’t make sense within our brand identity and mission as a company. That understanding is then the baseline against which we measure every request that comes our way. Ask yourself, “Does this make sense for me, my organization, and my mission? Will it help advance my career or grow my business, or just be a distraction?”

Take some time before responding. This is beneficial in two ways. First of all, it gives you time to consider whether or not the request fits with you or your organization, your goals, and your schedule. Second, even if you end up saying “no,” your clients will appreciate the fact that you are taking time to consider their request, even if you decide you must decline.

Check on your quality regularly. You must be determined to not let unnecessary “yeses” water down your products, which means you have to continually make sure you’re delivering your best. It’s easy to get deep into the weeds and not realize you’re taking on too much and doing subpar work that doesn’t really meet your own standards, or those of your customers. When you take on too much or you take on work that you are not truly prepared to do, you just can’t produce results that you will be proud of. Know your limitations, and take a deep breath each week to really scrutinize what you accomplished last week. Was it good enough? If not, don’t take on anything extra this week until you’re sure you can deliver.

Saying “no” is a powerful tool that can keep you producing the quality work you expect of yourself (and that your customers deserve). And the ability to say “no” in a positive and healthy manner is rooted in an understanding of who you are, what you do well, and the resources you can apply to any given task. Learning to say “no” allows you to say “yes” to more things that truly resonate with you or your organization — meaning you’ll be producing better work, and happier while you do it.

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