I often tell people that the reward for good work is that you will get asked to do more.  And most of us like to be thought of as ‘can do’ people.  Give us a challenge, ask us to do more with less or bring a project in a week early and we are eager to show we are up to the task.  Fine.

But none of us can say yes to every request, every new task, every advanced deadline.  And you fool nobody by pretending otherwise.  The only way to make meaningful accomplishments, to land the big sale, to get noticed as a key producer, is to learn to say no.  Often. 

You know what is on your plate, what your priorities are and what work is needed by you and your team to hit a target.  And you know that to do all that, you must have focus and discipline.

That’s where “NO” comes in handy. 

When you get a half dozen meeting invites a week,  look at each one.  Surely some don’t require your participation or offer you information you can’t get from the written recap.  Turn a couple down and gain a few hours.

When you get yet another offer to join a new task force or project as you enter the home stretch on the one you are working diligently on, say “NO”.  Or at least say that you could only consider it when the current effort is concluded.

You may get opportunities to play in a charity golf tournament, attend a celebratory dinner function or mingle with clients at a big game.  Here’s a thought.  Step aside and offer someone on your team the chance to do something they may rarely get to experience.  I have done this and found that it paid off with unexpected benefits to all involved.

Colleagues of Steve Jobs would say that if you found yourself riding an elevator with him that he would often ask:  “What have you said no to today?”  He referred to it as an important key to successful innovation.



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