3 Questions to ask yourself when faced with saying yes or no

This is a Community Contribution from Jon, a GTD enthusiast who hails from the midwestern U.S.

From long To Do lists to overcommitted schedules, we tend to take on too much.  When is the last time you said no to someone when they asked you for something?  It can be hard to do.

Most of us want to help others when they need it.  There are times, however, when we need to say no.  I know I don’t like to say no.  I like to help people.  It feels good when someone wants you to do something for them.

It may help to start weighing that commitment against what you’re trying to accomplish in other facets of your life.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when faced with saying yes or no:

1. Do you have the capacity to say yes? If you have the capacity, great, go for it.  Say yes.  Make sure you can commit 100% though.  Committing and not delivering is much worse than not committing at all.  You’ll know if you have capacity because with GTD, you already have an inventory of your projects and actions, the things you’re already commited to.

2. If you say no, do you know how to do it eloquently? Saying no could seem harsh on the surface, so sometimes you need to explain why.  An example is simply saying, “I have a lot on my plate and I don’t think I can give you 100% of my attention right now.  I’d love to help in the future if you need me.”  There’s not a lot someone can say to that.  You’re being honest.  Most people will respect that.

3. Are you the right person for the job? Just because someone asks you for help doesn’t mean you have the ability to help them.  If you have no idea how to fix your mom’s dishwasher would you commit to fixing it?  I don’t know the first thing about fixing dishwashers. (My expertise pretty much stops at changing light bulbs.)  Telling my mom that I can help would be doing her a disservice.

Same goes for work.  Your boss asks you to compile some information on an upcoming project.  He tells you he needs it by tomorrow morning.  You’ve got three other projects you’re working on that are equally important.  Do you have the courage to tell your boss no?  Again, explaining how you can’t give 100% to it and offering a different solution will help.

Knowing when to say yes or no is a big part of stress-free productivity.