Short on time? Stick to the bold text and the conclusion to discover why you should learn to say no.

Saying no isn’t easy and it can even feel a bit rude. Yet, you can’t just say yes to everything. Actually, you would probably be better off saying no a bit more frequently.

Wouldn’t you be happier if you could just skip a superfluous meeting, say no to boring social commitments and spend more time on what you really love? 

If you learn to say no to things that don’t fully convince you, you’ll start reaping several benefits. Just imagine what you could achieve if you had more free time to take care of yourself, your priorities and your true passions.

Three reasons for saying no to people:

‘People are frugal in guarding their personal property, but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.’ — Seneca the Elder.

Reason 1: Mental health over people pleasing

First of all, it’s important to set boundaries. If you always say yes, people will always expect yes. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough time to help everyone, every time. 

Moreover, if you say yes to everything, you might put your own mental health at risk. By spending all your precious time on others, there’s no time left for you. 

We know helping others from time to time is important to build strong relationships but if you never take care of number one, you won’t be able to fully commit to your relationships either. You’ll find yourself overwhelmed and struggle to be present when spending time with friends or family. 

Saying no can be mentally straining in itself. You might be afraid of negative emotions. People might feel upset or worse, be angry with you. However, you need to realise that you’re not responsible for their emotions. They are in control of both their expectations and how they feel. Maybe they just had the wrong expectations, and that’s why you need to set clear boundaries. Help yourself by making it clear what others can expect of you and what is beyond those limits. 

To feel better about saying no, just remember that you don’t owe anyone a yes. Of course, you will have certain obligations at work, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. You don’t need to go for a pint with your friends, you don’t need to lend your cousin money if he’s in trouble and you don’t need to accept a gig that’s underpaid. You have every right to say no. If you don’t protect your time, who will?

When you learn to say no, you’ll have more time for friends, family and fun — for everything that truly matters. This can only benefit your mental health and prepare you for the situations that deserve an indisputable yes. 

You’re the captain of your ship. Take the course that makes you feel best even if that implies sailing past some beautiful bays and leaving friends on the shore. If saying no makes more sense for your mental health, there is no room for doubt. 

Reason 2: Accepting that you’re bad at planning

Ever heard of the planning fallacy? It basically means that we’re terrible at planning and calculating how much time a task is going to take. People consistently overestimate their capabilities. Day in, day out.

There are two things you can do about it: set better deadlines and say no more often.

If you don’t take into account the fact that projects take longer than you think, you’re going to keep saying “yes, yes, yes” to everything. The result? You won’t have time for anything. Well, a couple of coffees, a takeaway pizza and Red Bull might get you through your to-do list but then what? There won’t be any time left for YOU. 

Ray Dalio, the famous founder of Bridgewater Associates, says that every project costs about 1,5 times as much time and money as estimated. This is true for business and personal life; I’m talking from my own experience now. 

So next time you’re invited to participate in a new joint venture, join a book club or play in a five-a-side team, ask yourself: “Do I really have time for this? Wouldn’t I be better of saying no?”

Practise selective ignoring. Learn to say no to uninteresting things; commitments that are not your priority. Avoid being too busy with menial tasks and taking on ever more projects to fill your schedule. Instead, make sure there’s enough free time in your calendar to see friends and family or accept that big opportunity you’ve always been waiting for. Don’t overcommit. 

You’re bad at estimating how much time a project or task takes. That’s the truth. But don’t feel bad about it, everyone is. Just say no more often. Don’t overcommit and leave a bit of a margin in your calendar.

Reason 3: Value your time, even if you aren’t working.

‘The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.’ — Henry David Thoreau

Before you say yes to something, ask if it is worth your time. What return are you getting from your (time) investment? Of course, this doesn’t always work. Some things have no financial value, so you need to figure out if they are emotionally fulfilling. 

Having free time doesn’t mean you cannot say no. Sometimes, it’s better to say no to something financially rewarding and replace it with something that puts you in a better mental state. 

Self-made multi-millionaire Naval Ravikant set an hourly rate for himself at a very young age. He told himself that his time was worth about $5,000 per hour before he even got a fixed job. Of course, this is a bit of an exaggerated example. I’d recommend you set your hourly value a bit above what you usually make per hour. A quick example: If you make £30 per hour, your free time is worth £35 per hour. 

So if your partner tells you to go to the other part of town to buy something that’s £20 cheaper there than in the shop around the corner, calculate if it’s worth your time. If driving to the other part of town and back is going to take two hours, I’d say no to that time commitment and go for the more expensive product around the corner. 

Another example. As a freelancer, you might be low on work and receive low-rate offers. You might be tempted to accept, but how will you feel about yourself working for a ridiculous rate? Sometimes, it’s better not to accept and wait for something better. And in the end, a healthy mind and work-life balance are often more important than extra income.

Just remind yourself that your time is valuable and once it’s spent there is no going back. Learn to say no when something is not worth your time. Choose emotional fulfilment over some extra cash.

So why should you learn to say no?:

As Warren Buffet says: ‘Successful people say no to almost everything.’ When you learn how to say no, you’ll feel an incredible sense of freedom. You’ll start to realise that you are the master of your time. and that many things you used to say yes to won’t always make you happy or take you closer to your goals.

Don’t accept invitations or commitments if they are going to affect your mental health. Keep some buffer time in your calendar for the big opportunities and start to value your time. You have every right to say no.

Do you agree with these reasons or would you like to add some? Feel free to leave a comment. If you’re ready to learn how to say no, you may find some tips on saying no here.

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