I stumbled upon an old post I had written for Psychology Today and decided to resurrect and refresh it for the blog. It’s about being inspired in the month of November to say “no” to more things. In the time since I first wrote the post, my concern about people saying “yes” to far too many things has only increased. Resilience and its flipside, burnout, have been themes in three recent client engagements. It’s time to say “no” more often.

Why it’s important

Saying “no” to more things is important for three reasons.

  • Improve productivity by focusing energy on the priorities that really matter.
  • Improve confidence and trust on your team by delivering on your commitments.
  • Recharge your batteries by being less harried and more focused.

Take the inspiration from the month and do each of the following this No-vember.

  1. Say NO to distraction.
    Right now, turn off all alerts from your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, CandyCrush, Farmville, Yelp, etc. Do it on your desktop and on your phone. If you don’t know how, Google it. Refuse to allow incessant interruptions that break your concentration.
  2. Say NO to useless meetings.
    Decline one meeting invite each week in November. Send a delegate, share your thoughts with the chair in advance, or read the minutes instead. This month, say “no” to the meeting that is a guaranteed waste of time.
  3. Say NO to low fidelity communication.
    If you craft an email to collect your thoughts and get your ideas straight, fine. But this month, pick at least 5 emails to trash before you send them. Instead, turn the email into a face-to-face or a voice-to-voice conversation with the intended recipient(s).
  4. Say NO to overtime.
    This November, use the increased focus and attention to be a little bit more productive each day. Then get up and leave at the end of the day. You should also say “no” to taking your computer with you for all but the most critical tasks.
  5. Say NO to inbox clutter.
    Pick 3 automated emails you get and unsubscribe. Hotel chains, retailers, automated blog feeds; if they’re no longer useful, get rid of them. If my twice-weekly emails are the ones you cut, I’ll understand.
  6. Say NO to downers.
    For the entire month of November, refuse to partake of gossip, complaining, kvetching, and other unproductive time-sucking conversations or relationships. You’ll be amazed how that contributes to #4.
  7. Say NO to low value work.
    You’ll have to give this one some thought, but your challenge is to find 3 activities that really don’t add any value and to stop doing them. Maybe it’s a report you send off into a black hole each week. Or maybe it’s all that time you spend finding the perfect images for an internal presentation. Cut out that wasted investment of time.
  8. Say NO to hurrying.
    Choose not to hurry everywhere this month. Don’t skip bathroom breaks or lunch. Don’t rush your kids out the door. Say “no” to running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Instead, find a deliberate, productive, and sustainable pace.
  9. Say NO to clutter.
    This is going to be my challenge to myself. I seem to collect piles of paper and eventually get lost and frustrated by the piles. Embrace technology like CamScanner or Evernote to process paper in the moment. Take a picture on your phone rather than taking a hard copy. Get out from under the mountains of clutter.
  10. Say NO to the default “no’s.
    Now that you’ve made some space in your life by saying “no” to all the unproductive stuff, now you can STOP saying “no” to the things that make life great. Don’t say “no” when a colleague asks you to grab a coffee. Don’t say “no” to going to the gym. Don’t say “no” to reading a third bedtime story to your kid. The real goal of No-vember is to allow you to say “yes” to the important stuff.

Sometimes you need a kick in the pants to get out of habits that aren’t working for you anymore. It’s November. The universe (or at least the Gregorian calendar) is telling you to shed some of the useless activities that have been filling up your life. I’d love to hear what you’re saying “no” to in the comments.

Further Reading

Gas in the Tank?

Bolster Your Stress Reserves

We Are Screwing Up Our Kids

Video: NOvember — 30 Things to Say “No” to to Be More Productive