Learning how to say NO graciously is all about shifting your mind. As a busy person on the go, I’ll bet that most of the time you operate in “reaction mode”. Living life doing what others want and expect you to do. I’lleven bet that you are frequently asked to volunteer on committees and perhaps even put together a special project.

While there is nothing wrong with being a “you can count on me type” sometimes there just arent enough hours in the day to do what you already have on your schedule.

Most importantly you need to have enough hours each day to take care of yourself in the way that you deserve.


If you live your life serving others and under a constant barrage of other people’s obligations and expectations, you will begin to lose yourself.

You can lose your identity. When you lose yourself, your spirit dwindles and your happiness factor diminishes. You become disempowered, cranky, and possibly even bitter.

This state of mind does not help you and definitely does not help those around you. So the bottom line is this – it pays to become a bit selfish and say no to things not in alignment with your long term goals and dreams.

The better you feel about yourself and your success helps the whole world because you are adding your unique gifts to the world in your own special way!

Time is a finite resource. We cannot make more hours in the day, we can only manage the 24 hours that we have in each day..

There is one sure-fire way to have more time throughout the day and this is to plan ahead.

Planning ahead serves two purposes with the first being that every hour you plan you will save 3 hours of effort. Abe Lincoln was known to say 1 hour of planning saved him 8 hours of perspiration and this concept, while not the exact 8/1 payoff, is still true today.

Keeping your focus on your long term goals will help you create a plan to optimize the hours you spend each day working toward that goal.

When you know what you want to accomplish this year, you will have a lighted pathway to get to where you want to go. It will also help you to determine all of the steps you need to accomplish in order to get there. Also, and most importantly, you will be better able to forecast how long it will take to get there. It will also help you say no to opportunities that are not in alignment with your goals.

Learning how to say no without offending the person, charity, or board that is asking for our time is an invaluable skill to add to your professional toolkit.

Our lives are so full right now and with everything in flux, virtual schools, working from home, cooking and cleaning, it is easy to simply go into action mode before thinking about what we should be doing.

So back to the topic at hand – how to say no. When you have your big goal set in your mind’s eye (and hopefully on paper) it will be easier to eliminate the small distractions and also to give yourself guilt-free permission to say no to tasks. committees,  and outside projects that don’t move you towards that goal. 

Another tactic you can use to bow out of obligations that you don’t have time for is to show gratitude for their confidence that you can do the job and then say you need a bit of time to think about it for a day or two. This way you can take a step back to determine if you really have the time they need from you to tackle their project.

By the way, if they cannot wait a few days for your commitment, this is a good indicator that the project is probably one you do not want to get entangled with. The urgency indicates that the project is probably someone else’s fire that they did not tend to until it sparked! 

Take a moment to determine whether you are being asked to tackle this project because someone else has dropped the ball. Are they in reaction mode – reaching to anyone who might save them? In this instance, it will absolutely pay to step away and reply with a firm NO.


If you are considering saying YES to a request, make sure you really have the time and energy to commit and pay the attention that it needs.

When we commit before we determine if we have the actual amount of time involved to give the project to completion, we might take on too much responsibility.

 When this happens, it is a lose-lose scenario for all parties involved. Things might fall through the cracks and you might miss deadlines. The result will be that you appear unprofessional and let the people down who were counting on you.


Those close to you and even your health might suffer because you become uneasy and unhappy with the weight of the obligation you took on. All of this simply adds up to too much stress!

One very important element of getting organized and putting processes into place is to have the ability to let go of whatever does not serve your business.

I am not suggesting that you should never volunteer or take on outside projects. Sometimes committees and outside projects are what is needed to expand your life.

Letting go, saying no, and moving forward toward your personal and business goals are skill-sets that will help every entrepreneur thrive.


Learn to say NO

Don’t volunteer until you take a moment to determine whether you have the time to fulfill the expected commitment

Give yourself permission to reconsider commitments and bow out of the ones you are currently involved in.

Delete unnecessary tasks from your schedule that detract from your BIG picture goals.

Don’t automatically respond to another person’s problem/fire before you determine whether it is going to enhance or disrupt your agenda.

Kathi Burns
Kathi Burns

Would like to feel more organized? If so, Kathi is here to help you.

Kathi’s expert advice has been featured in national media outlets including Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes and Gardens, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more.

As the author of 2 books, Kathi has also developed several online courses to help clients get better organized and energized in all areas of their home, life, and business.

Check out all of the systems you can use here

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