No.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about 10 things that will save you time at the office. But there’s one more I didn’t write about in that post, and I want to touch on it now:

It’s the word “no.”

I haven’t always been good at saying that word. I really like saying “yes.” I like being helpful to other teams at work, I like offering my time when I can, and I like working on new projects. I try to say “yes” to things as much as possible.

But I’ve also learned that “yes” can lead to trouble — if you say it one time too many.

There are three resources at my disposal that other people want: My time, my skills, and my team. As a manager, my job is manage those resources and make sure my team doesn’t overextend itself. So that means that more and more, I’m saying “no” to projects.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to be able to say “yes” to everything. I love helping people, and I’m lucky to be a position where I can help others do better work. But I’ve learned that there are times when you have to say “no.”

I’m still not great at saying that word, but I’ve learned a few things that have helped me say it better:

1) Be direct — I wrote it in that earlier post, and I’ll say it again: Being direct will save you time in the long run. Most co-workers initially request help via email, and that’s a place where you can be straight with people. I send a lot of these types of emails: “No, I can’t help right now. Sorry!” You’re not a jerk for saying that — you’re just being up front with people.

2) Saying “yes” when you don’t have the resources is even worse than a “no” — If you can’t actually help the person but say “yes” anyway, you’re making things worse for everyone. You’ll end up holding up their work, and on top that, it’s just plain rude. Don’t say “yes” if you can’t commit.

3) Try to find another way to help — If I can’t say “yes,” I’ll often meet with the person anyway just to listen and see if I can offer some advice. At the very least, maybe I can point them towards someone who can help.

I still don’t like saying “no,” but I’m learning how important it is to prioritize my three big resources: Time, skills, and team. Sometimes, you have to say “no” to keep those a priority.

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That photo of a closed door comes via Buzac Marius for Unsplash.