Updated: May 18, 2023
I’ve started to build yet another list.
Only this time, my list isn’t something positive like my happiness tracker, a bucket list, or anything like that.
It’s also not even a list of negative things I want to shed like my failure resume.
No, this list is a list of things that I will be saying “No” to. It is my I will not do this list. My “NO” list.
These are the things that absolutely do not get a “Hell yeah!” and are immediate, automatic “no’s.”
Knowing What You Won’t Do Is More Important Than Knowing What You Will Do
I won’t be….
- I won’t be buying individual stocks
- I won’t be taking on any more debt
- I won’t be purchasing a rental property
- I won’t be purchasing a short-term vacation rental
- I won’t be interviewing for a job
- I won’t be spending more than my budget
- I won’t be doing any angel investing
- I won’t be selling any of my long-term investments UNLESS my early retirement withdrawal plan calls for it.
- I won’t be taking any meetings before 10am or after 3pm
And this is just the start. As something comes up that I realize I need to automatically say no to, it gets added to the list.
The Automatic No
You see, by having built-in automatic no’s when the situation arises, I don’t even need to waste any time or energy on these.
So if I think about investing in real estate again, it’s a no.
If someone approaches me to invest in their business, it is a no.
If I am tempted to ever throw money at an individual stock, that is also a no.
If you want to meet with me before 9am or after 3pm, it is a no.
These automatic no’s help to free me up from going down any rabbit holes that I don’t want to be going down.
I’ve already spent hours looking at real estate investments, stressing over individual stock performance, or thinking about random business opportunities.
It’s just not worth my time to explore these further at this time. So for now they are automatic no’s.
Saying “No” to Claim Time for Yourself
But even with automatic no’s in your life, there are still going to be many, many situations where you need to say “no.”
These situations range from being invited to a dinner or a happy hour that you can’t make, or to something more involved like a full-blown vacation that you can’t afford.
In business, these situations may arise daily when you are invited to a meeting or an event that you simply do not have time for. Or worse, it could be last-minute travel that conflicts with your personal schedule!
In these situations, learning to say “no” will help you to clear time for what really matters.
And while it is essential to say “yes” to anything and everything early in your career to help advance it, the opposite becomes true later in your career.
As you advance in your career, it becomes critical to master the “no”.
You have to really figure out how to manage your time, and you have to turn things down. Period. There is no way around it.
This is where both automatic no’s come into play to help put up walls around your time, but also in learning to say “no” gracefully.
How To Say “No”
So how do you exactly say “no?”
I always like to do it with a smile, sound reasoning, and a possible alternative.
A good no has a few elements:
1. It is polite
2. It is straight to the point
3. It offers an alternative (when appropriate)Kurtis @ Delve into Money
Obviously, a lot depends on the situation, but with these elements in mind, here are some ways that I have said “no” in the past:
- “I would love to be at this meeting, but unfortunately I have too much work piled up and I know you can do it without me.”
- “I’m sorry, but I can’t make dinner Friday night. I have other plans. Perhaps we can try to schedule something for next month?”
- “This meeting is at 5pm, but I have committed to my family to be home by 5pm every night, so we are going to reschedule or I will not be able to make it.”
- “Thank you for your interest, but as a general rule, I do not do sponsored posts.”
- “I have a previous commitment on the 23rd, so I won’t be able to make it out to New York that day, but perhaps I can join by Zoom instead?”
Those are all real-life examples.
I have said no to important business meetings that required travel if it didn’t work for me and my family.
I have said no to dinner with friends because of previous commitments.
I have said no to meetings even as “early” as 3:30 pm because I knew it would mess up the rest of my day.
When you set ground rules, and you get some practice, saying “no” eventually becomes quite easy.
And since I’ve only thrown out a few ways to say no, I’d like to point out Kurtis @ Delve into Money came up with 23 additional ways that you can say “no” (you may need to click into the tweet to see the entire thread):
Famous Quotes About Saying “No”
But don’t take my word for it. The power of saying “no” cannot be underscored, and these famous quotes really take it home:
Don’t say maybe if you want to say noRyan Holiday
We need to learn the slow ‘yes‘ and the quick ‘no‘Warren Buffett
Saying no can be the ultimate self-careClaudia Black
Saying no to something is actually much more powerful than saying yesTom Hanks
Saying ‘No’ does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying ‘Yes’ is not always a virtue.Paulo Coelho
It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important”Steve Jobs
You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.Seth Godin
Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.Greg Mckeown
The Power of The “No”
Saying “no” doesn’t have to be hard. It shouldn’t be hard.
Putting together your I won’t do this list is a great first step.
Then you need to start saying “no” to all those other things in life that are bogging you down, or that you simply do not have the mental energy for.
Not everything is easy to say “no” to, but if you can create some automatic no’s, then you’ve got a great starting point.
Then you only need to follow the rules of saying no:
- be polite
- get straight to the point
- offer an alternative (if you can offer one)
Knowing what you won’t do, and saying “no” opens you up to the rare opportunities that you really want to say “yes” – a new business partnership, a new job, a new friend, a dream vacation, etc.
These are your “Hell yeah!” moments. When you have them, you know that these are the things that you really do want to be doing.
And they are only made possible by saying “no”.
In my current FIRE life with periodic work (on my schedule, on my terms), I have followed and much appreciated your advice of “hell yeah, or no.” Now, I will make an absolute no list as well.
As always, really value your posts.
Thanks Peter! How did your “no list” work out? Would love to see it!
Thanks for sharing your “No List”. This concept is very powerful. I’m curious how often will you come back and revisit this list?
Well, I will definitely keep adding to it as things come up that I realize should be automatic “No’s” – whenever it happens I’ll drop it onto the list. Otherwise, I like to review my lists of any kind periodically, at least semi-annually, key times being around the new year and my birthday which is over the summer…
Hold on, this is actually what I need: “The automatic NO” list! Thank you for the inspiration!
You are welcome!
I like this perspective, have a hard list of no’s would simplify so much more. Thank you for sharing!
Sure thing. Let me know how your hard list shakes out when you put it together!