There are so many things that we COULD be doing with our time. I always say that time management is a political issue, meaning that putting our time where others want it to be can be a political choice (where does your boss want you to focus? where does your client want you to focus?). And sometimes you have more discretion over where your time goes.
Still you need to make that choice. Which means sometimes you have to say no.
Tim Ferris includes a “What have you had to say no to in order to get to where you are now” element to many of his interviews. To get important things done you have to NOT do some other less important things. In this podcast he reads out letters from people who rejected his overtures to interview him for a recent book.
With permission he shares their exact emails which are polite and caring and which say no anyway.
- Give context (e.g. I’ve been really busy with work projects recently and have no time for my family / art / drawing / pingpong)
- Flatter a little (e.g. I know I’m going to kick myself for not being part of this, but I have to stay true to my intentions)
- Make it clear it’s not personal (e.g. you are one of several projects I just don’t have time for)
I’ve done a lot of work on the how to say no nicely thing. See here: