Turning down opportunities might not seem like the best way to get to where you want to go in your career, but one thing we don't talk about enough is the value that comes from recognizing that we don't need to say "yes" to everything that comes our way. Choosing not to settle for every opportunity is also a valid choice, and it's time to start treating it as such. In fact, I've found that the most successful and productive people know that the secret to getting where you want to be is saying one word: "no."
We believe that saying "yes" means showing interest. We think we're demonstrating our capabilities by taking on more work and being agreeable (i.e. - choosing to take on projects at the last minute). The reality is, however, that the more you say "yes" the more likely you are to burn out. In the end, your performance is compromised. You might even end up further away from your goals than when you started.
Need more convincing? Here are three distinct ways that saying "no" can help you shift your behavior, become a better leader, and be more productive.
1. It helps you gain respect.
If you're saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way, you're probably not stopping to evaluate if you're the right person for the job. When you say "yes" immediately you miss out on the opportunity to have a discussion that ensures the right person is doing the work instead of the first person to agree to take on the project. That's what you should be concerned with: being the right person instead of being the first person.
Saying "no" is also an opportunity to communicate your why and position yourself as someone who knows what their strengths are. For example, you'll earn so much respect by saying something like, "That project is not aligned with my genius, and I believe X person would be a better choice. I think they could do the work in half the time and would enjoy it more. Let's check with them and see if they have the bandwidth."
2. It demonstrates confidence.
Saying "no" often requires a justification, which intimidates people. After all, how many of us find ourselves agreeing to do something because we don't have the confidence to disappoint others? Think about that justification as your chance to truly shine. By explaining yourself, you're showing you have the confidence to defend your decisions and know what's best for the project at hand.
When you refuse to take on a project at the expense of your time, productivity, or happiness, you prove you're not going to be agreeable when it hurts you and your productivity. This will help people see you as a leader instead of as someone who goes along with anything and everything that comes their way.
3. It boosts productivity.
Our world isn't slowing down any time soon, which means you have to make the most of the time you have. Saying "no" is one of the most important habits you can get into to boost your productivity levels. Doing so helps you prioritize your time and helps you rededicate yourself to the tasks at hand.
Saying "no" can also force you to learn how to delegate. It'll help you realize that you don't have to do everything yourself. In fact, it'll show how asking for help can actually free up more time to do the things you love. Because you'll have more brainpower and less anxiety, you'll also decrease the possibility of a having a breakdown in the future.
Saying "no" may feel hard, even wrong at times, but there are so many reasons why it's worth it. Give it a shot and remember that great performance is about quality, not quantity.