Saying no is hard. Finding a cure for the disease to please is no easy feat. You may dread the idea of disappointing someone, or feel like you're missing out on an opportunity by declining an invitation. You want to do it all, but can you actually do it all? Quick answer: no.
Prioritizing your time as a leader is no small task. In fact, it requires a lot more discipline than many first realize. Your energy is a finite and precious resource that is constantly in demand. Learning how to delegate is key to continued productivity and longevity.
This is one issue I continually struggle with. With a serious case of FOMO, I would say yes to any invitation or opportunity that came my way. As a result, I was exhausted. Constantly on an airplane or attending events meant I was missing out on valuable time with my family and friends. Everyone else was my priority, except for myself.
As entrepreneurs, there's an intrinsic nagging feeling inside that we need to be busy in order to be successful. However, saying no when you genuinely feel it's not worth your time is empowering.
Here are three fool-proof strategies to freeing your schedule and stop overcommitting:
1. What value will this bring to me?
Burnout is real. Preventative action should be put in place to avoid it at all costs. Start by regarding your energy output like a phone battery. Everything you do in a day uses battery life. Prioritize your time (and energy) so you have enough fuel to power through.
Assess the value of an opportunity by asking yourself:
"What purpose does this serve?"
"Is it meaningful to me?"
"How will this help the company and/or my career?"
"Will it put me at an advantage over my competition?"
"Who else will be there?"
Don't forget, balance is everything. You need to refuel rather, your mind, body and spirit while you climb that ladder of success.
2. What am I looking to get out of this?
It's flattering to be invited to speak at an event, judge a competition or attend a conference. Saying yes means opening yourself up to more opportunities, which in turn fuels success, right?
While this may be the case when you're starting out, you'll eventually reach a point when accepting every invitation that comes your way is no longer beneficial. Think about whether or not it is actually a productive use of your time, or just keeping you busy.
If you can't connect with potential clients, enhance your brand awareness to new audiences or increase social media engagement, then what's the point? When you're unable to sift out a clear purpose that also brings you value, politely decline the offer.
3. Can I send someone else?
There are different ways to say yes (while still saying no). Just because it's not worth your time, doesn't mean it's not worth someone else's.
Don't be afraid to pass on the invite to someone on your team who is eager to make connections and build their name. This doubles as an employee retention strategy, because it shows you're invested in their future and trust them as an ambassador to the company.
Recruit a few members from your team and make them your go-to representatives whenever an invitation comes your way. Develop an in-house program that allows them to work on their public speaking and networking skills. This simultaneously frees up your time while still having company presence.