Saying ‘No’ to Unlock Your Most Productive Self

Chances are pretty good you’ve helped a friend or family member move at some point—voluntarily or otherwise. Let’s be honest: It’s a task no one enjoys. It’s labor-intensive, tiring, sometimes boring, and you’re likely spending an entire day doing it.

No amount of free pizza is worth that.

Still, you love your friends and family members. You want to be helpful and ease their burden. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the urge to help others.

But what if the benefits of doing that undesirable task don’t outweigh the overwhelming sense of dread you feel knowing you have your own to-do list waiting for you at home? And what if saying no is ultimately better for you?

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a goal-focused, growth-minded individual with plenty on your plate. And whether it’s helping someone move or declining an invitation to karaoke night with friends, sometimes you just need to focus on your own priorities.

Enter the “positive no.”

The No That Feels Like Yes

In his book The Power of a Positive No, William Ury explains the value of the positive no in negotiation—a concept many a businessperson has leveraged to get deals done.

The concept of the positive no isn’t as new as the term itself: In short, a positive no refers to bargaining in a way that leaves both parties feeling like they got something they wanted or needed—a compromise of sorts.

It’s yes-no-yes: A yes to yourself. A no that sets boundaries. A yes in the form of another solution.

Imagine: Instead of agreeing to help your favorite golfing buddy, Brian, move his whole life across town on a random Wednesday (a Wednesday your Full Focus Planner tells you is simply not good if you want to complete your Weekly Big 3 that week), you offer up part of your Saturday to help him mount his TVs and repaint a few walls. It’s still a win for Brian—he gets help with TVs and painting—and you get to dedicate a full day to your goals while also knowing you’re doing your part to help a friend.

If you struggle with saying no and need more convincing, here are three reasons the positive no can be crucial to becoming a more productive person.

Reason 1: Saying Yes to Yourself Helps You Achieve More

It’s natural to fear disappointing others, especially those you care about. But here’s the thing: They care about you. You need to care for yourself as well.

When it’s April 10 and the first item on your Weekly Big 3 is to complete your tax return, you probably don’t have much extra time to dedicate to anything that’s going to eat into your productivity that week. You need to focus on filing that tax return.

Try giving a positive no to someone this week and see how it feels to put yourself first. Then try it again—and again—until it becomes a habit you’re comfortable with. When you don’t think you have the time to dedicate to someone or something else, find a way to give a little without giving too much. Achieving your goals and living a more productive life will likely follow.

Reason 2: Good Communication is a Lasting Habit

The positive no isn’t just about the result. The process itself is valuable because it teaches us how to listen, understand needs and try to find ways of coming up with mutually beneficial solutions.

You want to order pizza. Your spouse wants to try cooking something new. If you refuse to give in, you may miss that your spouse simply wanted to spend their evening doing an activity together. You didn’t search for the positive no, and so you didn’t permit two-way communication that would allow you both to better understand one another’s needs.

The same is true for giving in with a yes any time someone asks anything of you or wants something you don’t. If you’re never willing to say no, you’re closing yourself off to good communication habits and deeper understanding of what makes people tick—yourself included.

Reason 3: Stress Can Be a Productivity Killer

If you constantly find yourself giving in to others’ desires—for your time or money or attention—you may also find yourself feeling stressed and frustrated at your inability to just say no. Ultimately, those negative feelings cloud your vision, derail your goals, and undercuts your desire to be productive and successful.

Sometimes finding the positive nos in life is about limiting your stress and frustration so you can be your best self as often as possible. As a goal-oriented person, you recognize the debilitating effects of experiencing unproductive stress. Sometimes, limiting stress is as simple as finding a positive no to say yes to your own priorities.

Last modified on March 27th, 2023 at 11:22 am

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