Why You Need to Say “No” … to Yourself

If you’ve read much time management advice, you’ll know that the ability to say “no” is an important one. Lots of productive, busy people have a tendency to take on too much because they never want to turn down a request for a favor, or even a new client who they know is going to be a pain to work with.

But friends, colleagues, and clients aren’t the only people who you need to learn to say “no” to. There’s one other person who can wreak havoc in your life … and that’s you.

Saying “No” to Achieve Financial Security

We’re all bombarded with advertisements: on television, in newspapers, on the subway, and especially on the internet. And the newest gadgets, DVDs, clothes, and so on are easily accessible, from stores open long hours, or online.

If your finances aren’t as good as you’d like them to be, perhaps you need to pay more attention to your impulse to buy new things. It’s all too easy for a few small purchases to add up to several hundred dollars a month in unnecessary spending.

Of course, I’m not saying that you should never treat yourself – but by resisting the urge to snap up every new goody that comes your way, you’ll truly appreciate the things that you do buy. You might want to set yourself a budget for discretionary spending, or keep a spending log for a few weeks to become more conscious of your choices.

Do it now: If there are particular stores (online or offline) that always tempt you to spend on things you don’t need, make a commitment not to visit them for the next month.

Saying “No” to Keep Your Schedule Sane

If you’re someone who gets excited by ideas and new projects – and most of us do – then you might struggle to fit everything into your days. Maybe you’ve taken on too many new tasks at work, or you’re juggling a bunch of different hobbies and interest in your personal life.

By saying “no” to some of those new project ideas (however good or interesting they might be), you give yourself a much better chance of succeeding at everything else. You’ll get existing tasks done faster – freeing you up to take on interesting opportunities that come your way in future.

You could try keeping a “someday/maybe” list of ideas, as recommended by David Allen in Getting Things Done. These projects aren’t ones that you’re giving up on forever – they’re just things that you know you can’t fully commit to right now.

Do it now: Look at all the projects that you have going on right now. Which one(s) could you put on hold for few months?

Saying “No” to Live Up to Your Values

The final area where you might need to say “no” is when a particular action would conflict with your values. This could be something small, like turning off the TV to spend quality time with your family, even though you’re feeling tired. It could be something huge, like refusing to have an affair because you’re committed to your marriage.

We’re all tempted to take the easy path at times – but that’s often not where real happiness lies. (And something that looks easy right now might create all sorts of problems in a few days, weeks, or months.) By saying “no” to yourself, you strengthen your will-power, meaning that you’ll be more likely to stick to your values and be the person you want to be in the future.

Do it now: What do you need to do (or to avoid) today, in order to live up to your own values?


Where in your life have you successfully said “no” to yourself recently? Share your experiences – and your tips – in the comments below.


Photo credit: ‘Hand Gesture‘ by Big Stock


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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