We survived another November. And not just any November. For many of us, it was a locked-down, Covid-19 November, which made the normal challenges of November in the Northern hemisphere (like barren trees, cold rain or snow, and darkness long after you start working in the morning and long before you stop in the evening) even worse.

Several years ago, I started talking about November as NO-vember, an opportunity to start saying “no” to things so I could be happier, healthier, and more productive. In 2019, I got serious about it and started a campaign on LinkedIn to provide quick videos for each of the 30 days in NOvember with one “no” for each day. It seemed to be popular, so I brought it back this year.

If you didn’t see the campaign or missed a few during a busy month, here’s the sum up. You can make it like a December advent calendar of “no’s” if you’d like! Just click the date to see the video.

What You Could Say “No” To

November 1: It was the first day of November, but 7 months into working from home. It had become 7 days a week and too many hours a day for me (and probably for you, too). On the 1st of NOvember, I was saying “no” to working all the time. I created a schedule, booked some time off, and got back to a better balance.

November 2: I was talking to clients who were feeling anxious and overwhelmed by how much communication was coming at them digitally during the pandemic. They were nervous that they were missing things coming in through a variety of different channels, not just email, but WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Texts. I encouraged them to say “no” to spreading your team’s work communication across different channels. Instead, I advised that they stick to one primary channel for the communication across their team and then specify when other channels were ok.

November 3: Ahhh, November 3rd, feels like a lifetime ago, but it was election day in the U.S. (I’m wearing my pearls for RBG.) After a bitter and divisive election campaign, I was saying”no” to trying to solve fights with facts. I was reminding myself to be curious, ask questions, and get to the values underlying the argument. The only way we’re going to make headway is by trying to listen and understand one another.

November 4: Do you remember the day after the election. Nothing was clear. Was there going to be a constitutional crisis? Were we going to have another four years of Donald Trump? I was fretting. I was actually doing calculations on scrap paper trying to figure out the percentage of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania that would need to be for Biden for him to take the lead (seriously, and I don’t even live in the country!) That’s when I decided to say “no” to fretting. It was nuts to get so caught up in something I couldn’t control. So, I made use of the day I had booked off (see NOvember 1st) and headed down to the lake for some R&R.

November 5: On November 5th, I got invited to a meeting that I just knew wasn’t going to be a good use of my time. It had a 60-minute agenda of which only about 10 minutes would be well-suited to my participation. Attending also meant that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have a private, more candid conversation with the meeting host, which was what I really needed. So I said, “no,” and scheduled a 15-minute call that allowed us to do what needed to be done.

November 6: Working from home has major advantages, but by November 6th, I was starting to realize the going from dance mom me to consultant me without skipping a beat was not optimal. Then I found research that showed that the best commute isn’t actually no commute, it’s a short commute, around 16 minutes. That’s when I decided to say “no” to toggling straight from work to personal (and vice versa) and decided to create better transitions in my day.

November 7: It was the weekend and I was inspired by my daughters’ new enthusiasm for thrifting. I donned my newly upcycled sweater for this video where I said “no” to always recreating the wheel. After this video, I built a whole program around a piece of writing I published in 2003. And it felt great to breathe new life into it.

November 8: I invited my friend Michael Bungay Stanier to share a “no,” building on his brilliant “no” in last year’s series. Of course, the brilliant MBS had another mind-blowing “no.” He talked about how he needed to say “no” to his old teachers, to make room for new teachers. This one has been percolating around my head all month. I’m still trying to decide which teachers I need to abandon and whom I can turn to if I want to really accelerate my learning. One easy answer to that was I promptly signed up for Michael’s Year of Living Brilliantly, which you can do here.

November 9: Whether in client meetings or in debates about racism and anti-LGBTQ hatred, I had finally had enough of the phrase, “we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Nope, agreeing to disagree is agreeing to leave a festering wound in our relationship. I’m out.

November 10: Have you ever had a well-meaning person try to help you solve a problem with your work? Yeah, how did that go? I’m all for helping people spot where there are issues they need to solve, but on November 10th, I realized that trying to solve their problems for them seldom works. I don’t have enough context, I don’t have the expertise, it feels like condescension. I’m saying “no” to proposing solutions to other people’s problems.

November 11: On November 10th, I found myself an hour away from a virtual leader forum with 50 senior leaders and without the editable pdf version of the worksheet that I expected to have from my graphic artist. Yikes. Panic was setting in…as evidenced by my heart rate on my trusty Apple Watch. I decided to say “no” to panic. Instead, I did a couple of rounds of the Breathe app and then found a YouTube video on how to make an editable pdf. It all worked out and I didn’t take years off my life.

November 12: Do you have a little voice inside your head? (He/she/they are the one reading this post to you, right now). Turns out that your narrator is pretty gosh darn unreliable. They tell you important untruths about yourself (you’re not good enough, you’re infallible), and they add a lot of flare and drama that isn’t there (do you ever let your narrator read you an email in a super-villain tone?). I’m saying “no” to trusting that unreliable narrator.

November 13: If NOvember had one eureka, awesome insight for me, it was November 13th’s realization that adjectives are the bane of effective management. Adjectives are so subjective, so squishy, and make it so difficult to communicate effectively with one another. I’m saying “no” to using adjectives in setting expectations and in giving feedback. Now that I’ve realized that adjectives are evil, I’m noticing how often they cause havoc…so fascinating!!!

November 14: Screens. Too. Many. Screens. November 14th and I was done with screens for a bit. I curled up on the couch, read a (paper) book, went for a walk, and had an outdoor brunch with my daughter… It was such a nice break.

November 15: Another chance to call on a NOvember 2019 contributor to provide another gem…and who better than the awesome Don Pontefract. Dan told a great story (he ALWAYS has a great story) about how winning an NBA championship was just as much about resting the star player as putting him on the court. Wow… permission to “load balance,” where you use rest strategically to improve performance. Dan has a new book and an online course to help you Lead. Care. Win. Check it out here.

November 16: Again on November 16th, I was inspired by my clients. In this case, a brand new client. They said “no” to waiting for the perfect time to start their leadership development program and instead, they figured out how they could get a start and how they could start in a way that would be conducive to bringing other people in later. I love this. Don’t ask “Is this the right time?” Instead, ask “What could we do now?”

November 17: Getting ideas from my clients again (I really do have the coolest job). This time, it was about the resentment that so easily builds up when we put huge efforts into work (physical, cognitive, or emotional efforts) but those efforts aren’t apparent (or at least not obvious) in the final product. The result can sometimes be resentment. Instead of resenting your colleagues for work they can’t see, November 17th was all about exposing that unseen work so that your teammates can: 1) help you find ways to lower the burden; or 2) acknowledge and support your efforts.

November 18: I thought I had missed a day in NOvember but then I realized I had just labeled two days as November 17th. This is actually the 18th, but hasn’t much of 2020 felt like groundhog day? Fearing that my NOvember 13th abandonment of adjectives in favor of verbs and nouns might have caused a slight over-correction, on November 18th I was saying “no” to micromanagement and showing you how you can avoid telling people how to do something by instead framing what’s important about their approach as part of the outcome. You probably need to watch to get the full picture.

November 19: I reached out to my inspirational friend Laura Gassner Otting for a dose of her life-changing, badass, tough love…and I got it. Laura urged us (as she has urged me privately many times) to stop running someone else’s race. (This is super important when you’re friends with Laura, because it would be nearly impossible to beat her at her race.) Instead, do as she outlines in her bestselling book, Limitless. Ignore everyone. Carve your own path. Live your best life. Find more of Laura’s writing, speaking, and courses here.

November 20: This was one of the most popular posts of the month and it was 100% spontaneous and authentic. After having a day where I was blown away by a 10-year-old, a 71-year old, and an 87-year old (my mom), I decided it was time to say “no” to judging people by their age. And when I say that, I also mean that we need to stop judging (or limiting) ourselves based on our age. Hip hip hooray to Sara, Karen, and Joan who inspired so many of us to ignore people’s age and see their passions and abilities instead.

November 21: NOvember is all about saying “no” to things so we can be happier, healthier, and more productive. For November 21st, I decided to say “no” to the healthier and the more productive in an effort to maximize happiness for one day. It was FANTASTIC. This life strategy was inspired by an older gentleman that I met at the park many years ago. We were talking about the secret to his longevity and I trotted out the hackneyed phrase, “Everything in moderation.” He agreed, but added the all-important corollary, “Everything in moderation, including moderation!” I love it… and I try to live by it to this day.

November 22: Around mid-November, I finally tried to make a dent in my bursting inbox. to my horror, I found an email from someone asking if I’d be interested in being a keynote speaker at an upcoming event. The message was about 6 weeks old. Yikes…what to do? Ignore it? Pretend it got lost in my spam filter? Nope, I said “no” to ghosting and decided to send a very sheepish apology note. The result: she was still interested and we set up a call!

November 23: In this video, which I filmed immediately after delivering the first module in my new Working Remotely course, I was a wee bit over-enthusiastic. Yikes, take a breath, Liane! Oh well, I was super excited because of some research I had found on a remote collaboration strategy called, “bursts.” In a burst, you say “no” to sending emails and hoping someone will respond. You also say “no” to interrupting someone to get the answer you need when you need it. Instead, schedule a time when everyone on the team is going to be working on the same issue. You work away, and if you need something, you choose the best communication approach and you solve the issue (or discuss the idea, or share the knowledge) on the spot.

November 24: This was one of the most fun and serendipitous entries in 2020’s NOvember campaign. My friend Lisa Chandler (whom I met 20 years ago when Lisa and my husband both worked at the same hospital and we all played on the soccer team together), sent me a private note suggesting a topic for NOvember. She asked if I wanted to record it for the series, to which I said, “no.” It was a great idea, but one I wanted Lisa to record so that more people could hear from this sage coach working on tiny Prince Edward Island. She and her colleague Julie Ann Gauthier did an amazing job…not only telling us about their concept of saying, “no” unless you feel a whole-body “yes” but actually demonstrating it. If you work in Atlantic Canada, check out Lisa’s awesome firm.

November 25: I was a little opaque about the inspiration for November 25th’s “no” to lies you tell to protect people’s feelings. That’s because a friend had written to tell me about how she had been dishonest with a colleague and I wanted to protect her privacy. I am so grateful to my friend for sharing her story because it was an opportunity to remind people that research suggests being honest is less aversive than we think, not only as the speaker of truth but also as the receiver. Saying “no” to misleading people to spare their feelings is one I have to keep up all year.

November 26: This was Thanksgiving Day in the US and a day I decided to take off as another demonstration of my NOvember 1st commitment to not work all the time. I decided to share a “no” from someone I am truly thankful for, my friend Liz Kislik. Liz gave some really practical techniques for saying “no” to unreasonable fear. I know from all the comments on the post that others were as grateful for these strategies as I was. Liz is a gifted writer and coach and you can find much more of her sage advice at lizkislik.com 

November 27: The schedule for my day off on November 26th included a long, luxurious walk with my best friend at 2pm. Just before lunch, I got a request from a producer at a big radio station to come on the show (they had seen the NOvember 6th idea of saying “no” to skipping transitions). Ooohh, radio, publicity…exciting! But it was a big, “no” from me. I had promised myself a day off (after 21 straight days of work) and I had arranged a lovely meeting with my best friend. So, it was a big, fat, “no” to diluting myself, to going back on my commitments, to jumping at one opportunity at the expense of another. [And then the universe threw me a bone and the radio station scheduled for the next day.]

November 28: After a couple of experiences during the week, my “no” on the 28th was saying “no” to hiding in anonymity with the camera off. If we’re going to create connection, if we’re going to support and inspire one another, if we’re going to do as good a job as possible with virtual communication, we need to turn our cameras on. Whether that’s in an internal meeting, in a training program, or in my case, in a virtual adult introduction to Hip Hop class (I know…I’m taking Hip Hop…it’s laughable), camera on makes all the difference.

November 29: My final guest host for NOvember 2020 was Denise Jacobs. I’m so glad that Denise made time in her crazy schedule (taping on a Saturday night) to share her wisdom about saying “no” to your inner critic. Denise has a book called “Banish Your Inner Critic” that’s full of rich insights and enlightening exercises to help you deal with that unreliable narrator I mentioned earlier. She was kind enough to offer a free downloadable chapter to help you start the deportation hearings.

November 30: Here we are. We made it to the final day of NOvember. It always seems that we get here so quickly, but writing this post, I’ve realized just how much went into NOvember 2020. My final “no” for the year was saying “no” to waiting for Covid to end. Sure, you have to wait if you want to French-kiss strangers….and it looks like you’ll have to wait for that cruise to Bora Bora, but otherwise, don’t wait. Do that thing that you never thought you could do remotely. Get on with living from lock down. We’ve still got a while to go in this pandemic so let’s make the most of it.

My final request. Let me know what you think of NOvember and if you’d like to see NOvember 2021. And tell me what kind of content you’d like to see in the meantime. Do you like videos? What topics? What else?

Thanks so much!

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