My dear friend Susan Ryan, a brilliant artist and business coach, said this to me in the early days of Cavill + Co. It became a favourite saying, one that my students loved.
But like all sayings, it took me experiencing it to truly get it. One day, I had several deadlines to meet and I’d made a promise to my man, Tyrone, that I’d finish on time (for once) and we’d cook dinner together. We both run our own businesses, so quality time together is scarce. Stupidly, I answered the telephone which involved long, unnecessary conversations with persistent salespeople - basically frittering away my day. Because I’d made commitments to clients and firm deadlines, I simply had to complete my work. This meant that I wasn’t finished when Tyrone got home and yet again, I’d broken a commitment to spend quality time with him. In that moment, I ‘got it’.
I’d put all these relatively unimportant people and tasks ahead of the most important person in my life. Because I’d said YES to them, I had to said NO to him. Suddenly I realised the value of voicemail. I realised why saying YES to scheduled calls was more efficient than saying YES to ‘coffee’. I learned that focusing on what you have already committed to before taking on new commitments, maintains your integrity.
Burn-out in small business and the For-Purpose sector is a crippling reality. Maintaining balance in your work and life is just as important as grabbing opportunities when presented.
So how do you know when to say YES or NO? Perhaps ask yourself a few questions:
They’re BIG questions to consider when someone innocently suggests, “Let’s do coffee!”
Will that ‘coffee’ open new doors, contribute towards the achievement of your goal? Remove the stress that is stopping you from focusing? Or is it just a distraction?
Changemakers are mostly compassionate people, who want to be of service. Some are people-pleasers. If you say YES to a constant barrage of requests you’re saying NO to working on your goals. We must get much better at saying NO, and it gets easier. For many, learning to work from home is a great opportunity to set new boundaries and learn the art of saying NO. Being busy is not the same as being productive.
‘The Yes/No rule’ works in many instances including corporate partnering. A few years ago, a student was unable to pitch to one of our corporate clients who had $1M to invest, because her organisation had said YES to a small $20,000 sponsorship with a competitor.
Another student spent many hours over-servicing a small corporate sponsor when that time could have been more effectively spent developing a strategy to win high-value partners.
So next time a company calls out of the blue and wants to meet to discuss a partnership, think before saying YES. A few key questions on the telephone before committing can save you wasted meetings and precious funds.
To succeed, we must surrender the illusion that we can make time for everything and please everyone. Say NO to distractions and YES to your goals.
Thanks for reading, I’m off to walk a dog that I said YES to this morning!