How One Small Word Can Protect Your Time
One of the most powerful ways to protect your time, energy, and ultimately, your happiness is one that often feels the hardest to do.
It doesn’t involve downloading an app or any complicated steps. You’re never limited in how often you can use it. It’s simply saying “No” to the things that don’t align with your goals for your time and energy and your future. This applies whether that future is this afternoon or in two months.
Saying “No” is the one-syllable way to protect and preserve not only your time but also your sanity.
One of my favorite ways that anyone has ever said “No” is the way author E. B. White did in 1956. Although White was a prolific writer for the New Yorker and wrote the children’s classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, he suffered from high levels of anxiety.
In September of 1956, he received an unexpected letter requesting that he join The Committee of the Arts & Scientists for Eisenhower.
This was something that wasn’t in White’s plans. He wanted to be out of the public eye and be working on his writing. That was his goal for his time, energy, and future.
So he said, “No.” But on his terms.
In response to the formal request, White sent a formal reply: “I must decline, for secret reasons.”
Secret reasons. How awesome is that?
He didn’t elaborate on what they were (how secret would they be if he shared them?) Just that they were secret, and because of them, he was saying “No.”
He said “No,” so he could say “Yes” to the important thing in his life, writing.
We can all learn from E. B. White.
I was raised (and you probably were as well) to put the needs of others ahead of my own and say “Yes” when people asked me to do something for them. It was understood that people like people that say “Yes” to their requests.
But by saying “Yes” to everyone and everything, we have been shortchanging ourselves.
Saying “No” can be scary. There is a genuine possibility you could alienate yourself. Friends, family, or coworkers might be offended because you are taking a stand for yourself or will no longer be seen as a team player. Or possibly not.
In one of those instances where 2020 actually really helped all of us, people have learned to say “No” much more often.
Whether it’s saying “No” because of health and safety concerns, or because of stress, or because the mental capacity to fulfill the request just isn’t available, we’ve learned that saying “No” to a request isn’t the end of the world.
It’s just choosing one of the two options available and keeping your best interests in mind.
As we inch our way towards a new way of work and life, keeping “No” in your vocabulary and using it more frequently will give you more control over your time, energy, and happiness.
If “No” feels like a little too much to say, try: “My schedule is booked,” “I’m not available,” or even, “I must decline, for secret reasons.”