5 Simple Ways to Say No: Tricks to Guarding Your Time (Draft)

Nobody says no as often as they’d like. Bound by obligation or guilt or a helper gene, we commit to favors large and small that are bound to be our undoing. We trade checking off one big satisfying thing on our To Do list for five small things on others’ lists. Why is that? Because politeness is more important than self-preservation? Well yes, if you have kids, in-laws or friends, then saying no is not always an option. Which is exactly why we developed a list of alternatives! Sneaky, sorry not sorry ways to protect your time and sanity.

#1 Great, what have you done so far? 

It’s easier to ask then to explore options yourself. That’s why you field a million vague “What should I do’ type requests a day. Call them on their laziness. Want advice on your job search? What have you done so far? It’s another way of asking Have you taken this as you can go?Where are you getting stuck? If they’ve done nothing, then make them run the baton a bit longer before passing it to you. I experimented with variation of this over the past 2 weeks and 60% of the people never wrote back.

#2 Touch less stuff.

I created this tao after observing my husband’s Shit Shave Shower morning routine. He can be from bed to office or gym in 10 minutes, while I’m still messing around with the coffee maker. His trick? Touch less stuff. He’s singularly focused on getting out the door. Whereas, my brain is distracted by all the things I see to do: The kids’ school lunches, the laundry in the dryer, the rotten-smelling trash. All innocent 2-minute tasks, but Jenga to your morning routine. Move one block and the whole tower comes down. So, tie your hands behind your back if you need to. Literally focus on touching as few things as possible and back away. (Mice or antelope. Minimalist. Bare bones.) You can apply this tao to your computer too: Open less tabs.

#3 What are we trying to accomplish here?

This gem was given to me by the CIA’s lead hostage negotiator (indirectly, in his book). Throw it down in your next runaway meeting.

#4 Don’t engage.

Another favorite of my husband’s. It’s the conversational equivalent of walking briskly with your head down. Don’t ask questions. Don’t make eye contact. Honestly, it’s like kryptonite for me. I was born to recruit; to engage strangers and tease out their life stories. But sometimes you have to resist asking questions to say on task.

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