Tools for No … Not Now

(from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

For the past few weeks I’ve been writing about the tools for no – tools to help you improve and accelerate your “no” muscle. These tools don’t eliminate the various challenges to the no, but they help you navigate a world where you’re being constantly called upon for a resounding yes. The four essential “no” tools are: 

  1. The Pause
  2. Keep it clear and simple (and without three specific words)
  3. I choose to …
  4. Not now

Last week I wrote about I choose to and this week we’ll explore the fourth and final tool – not now.

Now we come to one of the truly amazing no tools – not now. Whether explicitly asked or implied, we tend to experience requests as if the only answers are yes or no, which is stressful and limiting. We forget that there’s a third and fourth option. The third option is to clarify what’s being asked, so that your answer may be different. The fourth option is the not now, as evidenced below:

  • Question: Can you help out with the team’s fundraising campaign?
  • Not Now Answer: I want to help, and the campaign is important. I have several other priorities over the next two weeks, and I’m willing to get involved later this month.
  • Question: Can you help out with the team’s fundraising campaign?
  • Not Now Answer: I want to help, and the campaign is important. I have several other priorities over the next few months, and I’m happy to get involved with next year’s campaign.

To be clear, your not now responses must be honest and represent a true commitment. These aren’t throwaways (call me next year) – they’re clear, direct and honest commitments to help, just not right now.

I’m finding that the not now response is one of my greatest no tools. When someone asks for a phone call or meeting, and there are myriad reasons that doing it right now (e.g. today, this week or even this month) isn’t in my best interests, I’ll often say, “I’d love to get together. Let’s do it next month.” I often instinctively want to say yes, but a yes right now isn’t the best choice for many reasons. Rather than saying yes when I don’t actually want to, making excuses or saying no when I want to say yes, I rely on the not now.

I’ve found that people / askers readily respect the not now. If they feel like the matter is pressing, they’ll typically share it with me and we’ll have a direct and honest conversation about priorities. Rarely does someone push me or fail to respect my not now, and the same will be true for you.

There you have it – the four essential no tools: 1. Pause; 2. Keep it clear and simple (and avoid the never words); 3. Own your choices; and 4. Remember the not now. While the no may always be challenging for each of you, these tools will help you more successfully navigate the minefield of askers and requests in every part of your life. And always remember this – your lack of time in your life is not because too much was put on your plate. It’s because you chose to say yes and put too much on your own plate. If you want to live and lead more intentionally and in alignment with your priorities, you must learn to use and exercise your “no” muscle.

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3D No with Red Dices

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