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How to get real about saying no.
How to get real about saying no.

This week at Tilt we're taking a look at what it means to practice being more realistic. My story begins several years ago when I was running my own business. It was a typical Thursday night and as usual, I was working late. I checked the clock on my computer only to read it was 2am. The problem was this wasn’t unusual there were lots of nights just like it and there would be lots more to come if I didn’t get real about making some changes. And while I was at it if I were going to be completely realistic about it my situation the biggest problem wasn't just about working late it was what lead me here in the first place. My biggest problem when it came to my business was my default answer was always yes. Say yes now, figure out how to get the work done later. The downside of this strategy, as brilliant as it might seem, is that it eventually becomes unsustainable. There are only so many hours in a day and once they are filled you either compromise the integrity of your work or you end up borrowing non-work hours to get things done and that is exactly where I found myself on a Thursday night at 2 am.

You can't sprint a marathon

Most people I know are perfectly willing to give up a few hours of their personal time now and again but if yes is your default even those hours have their limits. We Connections love to say yes but we’re not alone, the more yes’s we try to cram into our day the faster we have to run. Keep saying yes and pretty soon you find yourself sprinting marathons. Sprinting marathons is no way to lead a life, in fact, it's pretty terrible so how do you step off the treadmill? How do stop saying yes to everything? Learning to say no is not just switching from your default yes to a default no, it’s about having a strategy. Here is a tactic I use when my default wants to say yes but my gut says say no.

Setting a realistic goal. 

For many years I struggled to say no. I felt the livelihood of my job depended on it but what I didn’t realize was that saying yes was not getting me closer to where I wanted to be. So I sat down and imagined what A successful future looked like. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn't the direction I was pointed in. So now when things start to pile up I do my best to put my instincts on hold and ask myself the following questions:

1- What am I ALREADY committed to and how much time will it take to complete? This is where being realistic is important. Resist the urge to short change yourself or to say yes just please those around you. (I’m talking to you connections).  
2- Will this new opportunity move me closer to my goal or further away? It’s important that your goal is meaningful and attainable. If it feels like it's too far out of reach try breaking it down into smaller more attainable chunks. It is much easier to move toward a goal when you feel you are actually making progress.
3- If it moves me further away can I find a way to say no or delegate it? Keeping your goal in sight is the only way you will make meaningful changes. Being selective about what you take on is the only way you can achieve it. Do not let yourself become derailed but your instincts to say yes to things that don’t point you toward that goal.
4- When my schedule is full it's full. That means no more yes’s until it is no longer full. Full of course is a relative term. Decide what full looks like to you and stick to your guns. If you no longer want to be sitting in front of a computer at 2 am then full means making some big changes. Decide how much you can do in a normal working period and do not waiver. 
5- When I have a difficult decision to make I never make them on the spot. I wait until I’ve had time to review. If I’m stuck I have a friend I call and we talk it through. More often than not I know the answer before I even make the call but sometimes it helps to hear myself say it anyway.

This is an ongoing practice. You may notice that in times of stress you begin to backslide and that's ok. Like all new endeavors, it takes time to make meaningful change. So stick to your plan and remind yourself often of the goal you want to achieve.