A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Clarity about what is essential fuels us with the strength to say no to the nonessentials.
– Greg McKeown
Two years ago while on my end-of-year reflection trip (I think it was Panama…) I read Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. What a great book in more ways than one, and highly recommended. McKeown discusses how to identify the essential – projects, activities, belongings – so that you can then identify the non-essential. Once you know what is non-essential you do something about it.
Similar to how we eliminated projects that didn’t align with hour hoshin plan, you need to eliminate activities and things that are not essential. One of McKeown’s admonitions is “if it isn’t a ‘hell yes’ then it’s a ‘no’.”
I was able to convince several people at my current company to also read Essentialism, so we’ve used that last statement on many occasions. When interviewing candidates for a position, we ask ourselves if he or she is a “hell yes.” If we don’t have that level of enthusiasm, then it’s back to the applicant pool. The same for potential partnerships, new projects, and equipment. Yes, it’s somewhat subjective, and we do use more quantitative analyses when appropriate, but that last gut call is valuable.
Another key revelation from the book was on how to say “no” to requests in a way that conveys that your time is valuable. If you explain the reasons why in an authentic manner, once the requestor gets over the disappointment, respect remains.
I have used this concept with considerable success over the past year. I’ve said no to speaking engagements I wasn’t interested in, collaborations that I didn’t think would go anywhere but in the past I might have tried anyway, and meetings where I was invited but didn’t really need to be there. This has freed up a lot of time and reduced the stress or drudgery of having to do something that didn’t add value, allowing me to invest my limited time more wisely. Sure, I still share a lot of my time to help out others, but I now do it more methodically – and I think better and more mindfully.