08 August 2023 |

Make “No” Your Best Friend

By Alex Alleyne

1. Not Everything Is Important

Several months ago, I woke up, checked my work phone and saw I had 17 scheduled meetings for the day ahead. Yes, 17 meetings, no exaggeration.

As I went through them, I quickly realised that some I absolutely needed to be on and others I simply didn’t.

Yet, all too often as sales leaders, we work from the presumption that if there is a meeting in the calendar, we must be present.

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “is this actually important?” 

A quick and effective way to tackle this is to write out your top 3 current priorities. These are the 3 that are top of mind and require your direct involvement in some capacity. 

Now, write out the rest of your priorities that come after your third one. Anything that comes after number 3, you must choose to either schedule to tackle at a later date, delegate to someone else or simply to close it down indefinitely. 

Being able to effectively prioritise starts with taking the time to understand what is critical and requires attention now, versus what can wait, be delegated or tackled asynchronously.

That same morning, once I went through the exercise above, I found that close to 50% of the meetings I didn’t deem as important and I ended up tackling them in various ways in line with the above.

2. Get Comfortable Saying “No”

As simple as it may sound, the word “no” can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. We live in a polite world where saying no or rejecting a request can feel intrusive.

With that said, we also live in a world where time is the most precious resource you have. Every second you get comfortable wasting by sitting in a meeting that doesn’t require you is a second that could be better distributed elsewhere.

Next time you have a request for a meeting, take a moment to ask yourself whether a meeting is the appropriate forum and whether this is a priority right now.

Then consider:

  • Could this be tackled at the end of the day or week?
  • Could this be handled through a voice note or video?
  • Could this be managed in 10 minutes instead of 30 minutes?
  • Does this need you or could a colleague handle it?

By the time you consider these points, in many cases you will find what may be felt to be urgent to the requester simply isn’t critical from your worldview.

That doesn’t mean you don’t choose to be helpful, but it may mean that you need to either lean in, delegate or simply defer.

3. Respond Slow, But Act Fast

The sub-title here feels like an oxymoron, so let me explain. I recently read Great Ceos Are Lazy by Jim Schleckser. In the book Jim walks through an example of a busy CEO who was unable to manage his workload and prioritise effectively.

Jim asked the CEO how quickly he responds to his email’s, to which the CEO responded “on average within 1 or 2 hours”.

Jim encouraged the CEO to run an experiment to not reply to any emails for at least 24 hours after an email reached his inbox.

Through that change alone, the CEO’s workload reduced by close to 50%.

Staggering I know! By simply reducing responsiveness, the same people who were requesting his attention were able to find answers elsewhere.

Instead of relying on the CEO for an immediate response as they became accustomed to, they learned to be more creative finding answers to their challenges.

And when the CEO did need to action something, he was able to do so quickly and effectively having reclaimed a sizeable amount of time back in his day.

Ever since, I have employed a similar approach in particular pockets of my day to day and have equally experienced surprising but positive results.

Give it a try yourself and let me know how it pans out.

Next Week: The Eisenhower Matrix To Master Prioritisation

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Next week, we’ll delve into one of my favourite prioritization frameworks,The Eisenhower Matrix, and how you can leverage it to be more strategic about your daily to-do list.