Most business owners will say that not having enough time is one of their biggest issues. But the simple yet hard-to-swallow reality is that we have more than enough time to do what we need to do; we often just fill it with the wrong types of commitments and obligations. Meaning … we need to start saying “no” to the things that eat up our time and negatively impact our bottom line and embrace a more healthy “yes”.
In one of my favorite quotes, Warren Buffett says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
The gift and curse of going into business for yourself is that you get to make all the moves. There is no company protocol to conform to, no roadmap to guide you toward your goals. You are confronted with endless possibilities and opportunities that can either help or hurt you as you build your reputation and your business, and you will most likely make a ton of missteps as you pursue your goals. You no longer have to constantly say yes to a superior. However, agreeing to everything that comes your way is rarely the right move.
However, agreeing to everything that comes your way is rarely the right move.
So what exactly are business owners saying no to that makes them so successful? I’ve discovered 12 consistences, ones I used to fall prone to myself. Ever since being more intentional with what I say yes to, I’ve been able to relieve nearly 80% of my time, money and energy drains.
Part I: What to say no to (12 places to start)
1. Unnecessary Meetings
How many of the meetings you attend actually could have happened via email or over the phone (or perhaps didn’t need to happen at all?) Taking meetings is a major time vampire for a lot of business owners and more often than not, meetings are simply just a waste of time.
In addition, business owners are often saying yes to meetings before understanding why they’re being called into a meeting in the first place. Think of the people who want to explore possible collaborations or brainstorm ideas of working together. Before agreeing to any meetings, be sure you understand why people want to meet in the first place. If a meeting is requested, suggest meeting over a quick phone call instead.
If you know the meeting’s purpose, you can quickly make a decision as to if it will be worthwhile or not, letting the other person know the truth about your position so as not to waste anyone’s time, including your own. Bottom line, value your time, especially when it comes to meetings and set boundaries.
Need a reality check on just how trying meetings are on your schedule? Check out this free meeting calculator. It connects to your Google Calendar, analyzes your meeting activity over the past 365 days, and will instantly tell you:
•How many hours you spent in meetings in the past year
•What percentage of them were recurring
•How much these meetings cost
•How your numbers compare to other users
I’m all about not reinventing the wheel and if it’s possible not to, you shouldn’t. But there’s a difference between not reinventing the wheel and taking shortcuts.
Business owners who think they can take a shortcut but achieve the same results as someone who took the full path are setting themselves up for failure. Nothing great was achieved via shortcuts. What’s too good to be true, often is.
Successful business owners know that the key to great work is to see it through entirely; and to test, seek feedback, and focus on quality. Neither of those three things can be effectively produced through a shortcut.
Did you know that on average, it takes 20 minutes to re-focus on your task when you get a distraction like an Instagram notification or decide to quickly check that twitter pop-up? Successful people know the unique tactics to keep themselves focused.
The strategies for focusing are different for each person, based on their work style. And they’ve done their homework to know exactly what drives their focus and what crumbles it, following this discovery up with tactics that stick.
For example, removing all pop-up notifications from their phone and computer or setting an out-of-office alert on their email for temporary time periods where they need to go head down. They do what needs to be done to ensure they’ve created a distraction-free space to zone in when it’s needed. And they’re also keen on how to communicate this to the people around them so that their team supports them when it matters most.
Have a large project looming or need a kick in the pants to get more done this afternoon than you have all week? Check out my short 3-minute video on how to combine a coffee shop + computer cord to beat procrastination.
4. Putting themselves last on the priority list
When you thrive, your business thrives. It’s as simple as that. Successful business owners know that if they aren’t well-rested, energized, and healthy, there’s no possible way for them to think creatively, be innovative, or handle their workload efficiently. They don’t think twice about putting self-care first on their list and they know that by doing so, they are creating a better experience not only for themselves but for the people around them.
Self-care is my jam. Bookmark this website when you need a quick pick-me-up for your mind, body, and soul that speaks directly to a self-employed audience: Need some accountability in making self-care a priority? Head on over to Best Kept Self.
5. Always responding immediately to emails
Once you set precedence, it will always be expected. If you are always on, always available, and always responsive, then people will always depend on you to keep pace at that rate. You’ll burn yourself out.
Successful business owners understand boundaries and how to set them appropriately so that they can still over-deliver but not feel compromised of their own time and energy. They can still put the client first by being realistic about deadlines and their communication style to ensure both parties have a great experience.
And here’s the deal … even if late evening or Sunday is the best time to catch up on emails, let your clients think you have boundaries around your time. Use a tool like Boomerang, an email extension that allows you to schedule emails for when you want them to be sent, not when you’re actually sending them.
Sidenote to really drill this home: If you work with a team or have employees, setting boundaries around the timing of your communication will positively impact your team members, raising moral overall. Think about it this way, if your boss appears to always be on, think about the pressure that puts on your team and the expectations you may be unaware of placing on them. Lead by example (or appear to by using tools like Boomerang above) and your team will perform better.
6. Discounting their services or products
Pricing is one of the most challenging components of running a business. And pricing your own time and expertise can be even more difficult. All too often, business owners are undervaluing their time and expertise by not charging enough or constantly discounting their services.
Don’t get me wrong, I think every business owner struggles with this and obviously there are some businesses whose sole purpose is to compete on price (think Walmart). But for those whose business model does not compete on price, know that once you discount, your value goes out the window.
If you waver on your value at all, your client will see and feel it and you’ve just turned their focus to getting the best deal instead of selling them on quality. You must know your value and stand your ground on it.
I built you a time-saver template for saying no. Simply copy and paste next time someone asks you for a discount: When someone asks you for a discount, I know it can be difficult to say NO right then and there, which is why I created this handy script swipe file (download here) which includes the exact verbiage that I use for saying no in a friendly yet confident way. It includes this and 12 other scripts for saying no to common situations you’re triggered to say yes to.
7. Negative relationships
As much as we’d like to think we can get along with everyone, this just isn’t the case. In the real world, personalities clash, friction occurs, or people simply don’t work well together.
Successful business owners know the impact of the people around them on their own success – from their energy and work ethic to their leadership and communication styles. They also know that it often takes just one person to bring the whole ship down. They carefully cultivate their inner ring with people who align with their vision and purpose, who support them, and who push them to be a better leader, peer and person all around, even if this means disagreeing with them.
Respect and integrity are the two most important components when cultivating this inner ring and if one person is souring the crowd, the entire dynamic of the group can shift.
Does letting go and breaking ties with people make you anxious? Deep-dive on this topic with this must-watch short video from Madea: I caught this video on FB recently and while Tyler Perry is speaking to personal relationships, this advice is worth its weight in gold for your professional relationships as well.
8. Not spending money to make money
There’s a time to be frugal and a time to invest. Successful business owners know the difference between the two. While it’s certainly understandable for business owners to not spend money they don’t have and to do everything in-house or as cheap as possible, it’s not entirely justified. They are some situations where it is absolutely important to make the investment for the sake of growth.
9. Filling empty space
Successful people leave a certain amount of empty space in their lives and businesses for abundance to flourish. They know the power of keeping energy and time reserves. If you fill the space around you with activities, collaborations, meetings, phone calls, etc., where will the new, more profitable, opportunities fit? And where will the energy to capitalize on them come from? It’s as simple as that.
Is this your weak spot? This book will help: Move it to the top of your book list – Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Seriously, just prime it and thank me later. It’s ah-mazing.
10. Making too many decisions
There is such a thing as decision fatigue and it affects us all. No matter how rational of a human being you are, there is absolutely no way you can make decision after decision – say yes after yes to things – without paying a very draining biological price. Large or small – the yes’s will add up and they add up quick.
The moment you wake up, you decide whether to hit the snooze or not, what to wear, what to have for breakfast, if you should stop at Starbucks, what to do first at the office … and this continues all day long. We make poor choices in what we say yes to, become more prone to settle, and act irrationally when we are mentally depleted from this decision fatigue.
The more choices you make, the harder on your brain each one becomes and eventually your brain starts looking for shortcuts, usually in 1 of 2 forms: By acting impulsively and saying yes to things we don’t want. Or it avoids making any choice at all, which means it chooses to say YES to nothing. Which often creates a larger problem in the long run.
Successful business owners know how to preserve their decision-making ability by eliminating as many unnecessary decisions as possible.
11. Extracurricular Business Activities
There’s a time and place for networking events, coffee meetings, and free speaking engagements. But at some point, the opportunity cost of these activities becomes more significant. A successful business owner asks the question, “What am I missing out on by going to/doing this thing?” She carefully weighs her options and keeps the majority of her business activities focused on revenue-generating tasks.
Yes, exposure is a good thing; and when you’re correctly aligned with your target audience and have an engagement marketing funnel in place to convert them into leads, free exposure in exchange for your time can possibly work.
But regularly trading your time and energy for exposure, especially when you don’t have a marketing funnel in place, typically doesn’t pay off. You know what I’m talking about … speaking for free at a convention because the organizers guarantee “great exposure!” or donating your services for the same false promise. At some point you have to stop giving away your value – it continues to keep you small and can land you in a vicious cycle of discounted value.
Free exposure in exchange for your time often produces little to no return and unless you have a proven and tested lead generation system in place, you’ll simply just waste your energy.
Part II: How to say no
So how exactly do we start saying no? This is the hard part. (For the quick path, Get my free swipe file of “No” scripts. ) Knowing when to say no rarely is the issue. Actually saying it is the problem. Feelings of guilt and emotion trigger us to say yes in the heat of the moment when we really need to be saying no and this keeps us in a perpetual state of overwhelm.
I’ve got a great formula that makes saying no easy. I call it the RANE formula.
R = Recognize
A = Appreciate
N = No
E = Empathize.
Watch the video below to learn how to put it into action.
And if you really want to streamline your “no” efforts, download my exact swipe file of “no” scripts – more than a dozen email templates to say no in sticky situations, like when someone asks you for a discount on your services or when someone wants to pick your brain: