Previously, we discussed how the inability to say no can be harmful to our productivity on many different levels. It is a practice that many of us are guilty of. And it takes many years to overcome this behavior because it becomes so ingrained in our ways of being. Since it is that hard to fight off this character trait, in this article we will discuss ways to tackle it – how to say no without feeling bad about it. How to devote your free time to yourself instead of others. It will be a slow process that you will need to get used to because it will feel strange at first. You will try to say no, but you will feel guilty for doing so. It takes a bit of time and a few tries before you get the hang of it. Also, it is such a normal thing for some of us that it feels out of character to say no. For these reasons, it might take you a bit more than others, or less (depending on your personality) to start to say no. Nevertheless, we hope that by the end of this article you will have a better toolkit that will help you stand up for yourself. No more saying yes to everyone and leaving your own well-being unattended.


First of all, you need to understand that saying no is simply necessary sometimes. It is a mandatory step to take control of your life and to become more productive in the long run. You might think that running errands or doing favors for other people doesn’t take much of your time, but when you add it all up, you can see that it takes hours of your time on a weekly/monthly basis. Those hours could be used to become a better version of yourself. Instead, they are being wasted on small tasks for others. Saying no after so many years of being programmed to say yes to everything is no small feat. You will need to fight many inner battles and it will lead to many awkward situations from people that are not used to your new behavior, but you will need to do this in order to progress in your journey.
The very first step for you is to change your mentality. You need to accept this new trait of yours. You are no longer a person that is available to everyone. Your time is valuable. You are no longer interested in pleasing others to such an extent that it harms your future self. Now, you are focused on yourself. Now, you know that saying yes to everything steals away from what you could be a month from now. And when it comes to being productive, every day toward that goal matters.


After acknowledging that saying no is a necessity, you need to address how to say it. This is especially relevant if you are not used to saying no to people. You will try to deny their request, and with a bit of persistence, they will make you cave in. It will not be their fault. It is the force of habit we fall into. Therefore, you need to strengthen your self-image and mindset. You can’t be afraid of what others will think of you or what kind of impact it will have in your relationships. If those relationships that you built by being always available are of any importance to the other party, then the fact that you are rejecting their unimportant requests to improve yourself will have no effect on the relationship. If it does impact the relationship, then it wasn’t that good from the start.
There are many ways to stop saying yes to everything. Still, it takes time to learn how to say no and how to adjust it to every type of situation. If you start saying no to everyone overnight, then you will come across as rude. Balance is needed. People can’t and shouldn’t change overnight for two reasons. First, if you change too quickly, you won’t adjust well and will quit the process of change altogether. Second, if you change overnight, people around you will think that something is happening to you. They, too, need time to digest your change of behavior, especially if they are close to you.
Okay, now that the logistics of the process are out of the way, let’s take a look at few examples.


We have tackled everything needed to start this process. Now we need to start tackling the many ways of letting people down easy. Saying no to improve your productivity is the final and most important goal of this step. However, in the end, you don’t want to burn any bridges by being unintentionally rude, right?
One thing you need to take into account is the person that you are dealing with. Some people don’t react well to white lies, while others don’t react well to stating the whole truth. You will need to adjust what you can and cannot say to the person you are talking to. People should try not to lie, of course, but sometimes a white lie is the only thing that will stop the other person’s persistence. All of this depends on how the other person is. In this matter, you are the only one that knows how to address the situation.


So simple, yet so hard. We hate confrontation. We will say yes to anything just to receive approval from others and peace of mind. Nevertheless, saying no is as easy as saying yes. What makes it so hard is our perception of what the other person might think or how the other person might react. Still, saying no really is as easy as saying yes.
After saying no, you typically have to follow it up with another explanation. “I’m sorry, but I must say no because…” Sadly, if we just say no and walk away or close the conversation, it will sound extremely rude! You will always want to keep the conversation going for a little longer to see if the mood of the other person changes.
So what do you say? The easiest response is a white lie, though this is not frequently recommended because doing so it might end up troubling you later on. Still, white lies are the easiest ways to get out of situations. No feelings are hurt unless the other person finds out, or unless you start to feel guilty.
In order to avoid the previous scenario, you can always excuse yourself bluntly. For example, “No, I can’t help you today because I have a few things to sort out.” In this case, you didn’t have to lie because you weren’t specific about the reason. This is the best way to decline a request without being impolite.


Recommending someone else to help is an excellent strategy. Not many people are willing to go out of their way to find a solution for other people’s problems. Let’s imagine that the person asking you has a very specific problem, to which you know someone who is a better fit than you. Why not recommend that other person? If you forward a request to another person, try to give that person a heads-up so they are prepared to respond in a manner that fits their own priorities. This is a perfect solution not only for you, but to the person that asked you. For you it is perfect because you get more free time, and it is perfect for the requester because you still find a solution to get it done, which makes you more dependable without actually investing any time at all. Plus, you connected two different people. How awesome is that?


Sometimes it will be impossible to come up with an excuse and even more impossible to recommend someone else because the request is specific to you. Or you won’t be able to dodge it. There will also be some requests that you will want to do. We shouldn’t say no to every request made, just as we shouldn’t say yes. You will need to prioritize and decide which requests deserve your full attention and which don’t.
How should you negotiate a request then? Simply talk it out. Sometimes you won’t have the availability to attend to the other person’s needs. Or the timing won’t be good. You will have different tasks to address or important needs to meet, so you will need to reschedule it. You will have to negotiate a different time to do it, explain why, give it a reason or not. It all depends on what you are willing to explain. Nevertheless, negotiating is a surefire way to ensure that everyone ends up getting what they need. You will be able to reschedule according to your availability, and the other person will have his need fulfilled with a decent explanation as to why you can’t at that precise moment.
In this way, you are saying no without letting that person down.


Another tactic that might work for you, even though it has a highly evasive nature, is postponing. Honestly, we do not recommend this approach since we should always tackle our daily challenges head on. However, it is a great strategy toward building the confidence to say no to others. Even if it is an indirect no. At the end of the day, what matters most is how productive you are able to be. That is how we want to help you! At first, if you aren’t so great about rejecting other people’s requests, then you can resort to this tactic of postponing (temporarily, if possible). This is similar to the previous tactic of negotiation. Still, in this strategy, there is no intention of helping out the other person. You aren’t negotiating. You are postponing and only that. As time goes by, that person will, eventually, find someone else to help him or her.
It is a nice strategy to start with, especially if you aren’t good with confrontation and still have some doubts about your ability to say no to others. It helps to free up your time to be productive, but, in the end, it is a bit of a character killer. We recommend you don’t depend on this too often. Instead, you should try to fully develop the social and personal skills to say no as you wish and need.


Another necessary step to saying no without fretting too much is letting go of what people might think. At first, it might be daunting to tackle this, but as time goes on, it gets much easier to deal with. The feeling of insecurity that stems from taking a stand must slowly fade away in order to properly say no to others. This applies not only to yourself as in questioning if you really should say no or not, but also to the image you pass on to others. If you seem insecure about your answer, people will see it and deftly convince you to turn that no into a yes.
A big part of being able to say no to others is having a high level of confidence and self-esteem. You can’t doubt yourself and rely on others for security. Or, at least, not completely. You must be able to take steps to prioritize you and your needs without looking to others for validation.
When you start the journey to become more productive, there is a lot of personal, professional and emotional growth that will occur. You will start to take on challenges you didn’t think were possible. This is nothing to be afraid of. It is a gradual process that will change you slowly. This is just another much-needed step. If you want to be more productive, you will have to say learn to say no without questioning yourself. Your confidence can’t be connected to other people’s images of you. You will have to build your own perception of yourself, change it accordingly, and – ultimately – become become comfortable with who you are. Hopefully, our articles will support you in this quest!


Hopefully now you have a better grasp of how to tackle this situation. The ability to say no is not only a massive productivity booster, but it helps you grow in many regards. Even if you are a person that hates confrontation, you can’t always be ready to oblige others. You need to set your own priorities. That is to say that more effectively dealing with this situation will not only help you be more productive, it will also change your outlook on your daily life. You will start to build a sense of confidence you didn’t have before. It won’t come overnight, but it will slowly change you into a person you may not recognize anymore. That will come not only from investing your time more efficiently, but also from gaining control over your own decisions. It might seem silly to think that saying no will boost your self-esteem and change your very nature, but in a few months you will see it for yourself.
Every little step we take toward being a better version changes us at our core. This is one of those steps. Don’t be afraid to take it, even if you can’t fully dive in. Baby steps. Our road to productivity and self-improvement is a marathon – and a lifelong one at that. Say no to anyone who rushes you, even yourself!