Its OK to say no.
“No thanks, that’s not what I want to do.”
“No, that’s not on my priority list.”
“No, I don’t have time for that, and I have other people and projects that deserve my time instead.”
“No, I don’t have to do that, even if you think I should.”
“No, you left that way to late to try and give to me last minute.”
“No, its just not for me, try someone else.”
It’s not as hard as you think it is. It’s perfectly OK to say no too. The vast majority of people who may ask you for your time, effort or attention will understand when you say no. There are only 24 hours in a day and we all have a finite capacity to get things done.
We also have a finite capacity to get the things that we want to get done too. It may be important to the person requesting, but it’s not necessarily important to us.
Then there are people who make assumptions about our time. Who look initially a little stunned when you say no. Your family, boss, colleagues. They assume you’ll say yes. You just have to say “no” more than once to make yourself understood. On a rare occasion I’ve said to this sort of person, “which bit of no, do you not understand?” Its a phrase that comes with potential conflict, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Then there’s my favourite, someone who leaves tasks until the very last minute, and then hands them to you with a deadline that’s so close, you’d need to drop everything to attend to it if you were to have any chance of meeting the deadline. They can have had this issue a week, before handing it to you with a deadline in the next 24 hours. It’s like being handed a poisoned chalice. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. On hearing no, the run off to their boss, who immediately appears at your desk, asking you if you understand the priorities of the business and customers. This is of course relevant, but not relevant. The priorities you are fully behind, covering for people who fail to plan and communicate properly is the thing you have issues with. Saying no in this case is hard, but very necessary.
Saying no is not always easy, but sometimes it’s incredibly important to do so.