Have you ever found yourself taking on more than you can handle? Maybe you find yourself in that position all the time. Every time an exciting opportunity knocks at your door you decide to take it without taking the time to think if you can really handle it. Well, if you want to really be successful then you need to stop doing that. Learning to say no is one of the most important things you can ever learn. It's very difficult for sure, but it's what truly allows you to focus on the things you want so you can excel in them. It's natural to have fear of missed opportunities, or FOMO, as I like to call it. It's an issue I've had problems with my whole life. I would bite off more than I could chew, and then I was constantly behind on everything while cursing myself for allowing it to get to this point. There's only a certain amount of hours in the day, and if you stretch yourself too thin you won't get any meaningful progress in any single one of them.
Success will bring you bigger and better opportunities with time. As you succeed, though, you need to learn to prioritize the opportunities that are coming your way, finding a good balance between over-committing and taking on enough to push you further into success. It's all about setting realistic goals. Not everything can be done at once, so ask yourself, which comes first? What goal is most important to me now? Then try organizing time and energy to reflect those priorities. Obviously, that's the most challenging part, so here are a few tips to get you started. It's not a magical formula by any means, but it's something.
1.Don't respond immediately -- Ask yourself when a new request comes in if you're in the best state right now to take on more. The absolute worst time you can make a decision is when you're stressed, tired, doing something else, or excited about the thing that's been brought to you -- and typically that's when you'll get asked. Give yourself time to take everything in and be thoughtful about it before you respond.
2. Ask if it aligns with your goals -- Obviously there are a million routes to success that you can take, but is taking on this particular project going to help you get to where you want to go? Or is it going to have you moving horizontally? It's important to know this. Just because you see a great opportunity doesn't mean it's the right opportunity for you.
3. Practice -- It sounds obvious, but it's true. Saying "no" is like any other skill; it's going to be tough at first, but after some time you'll get the hang of it. Just be direct, don't over talk, and don't be wishy-washy. Be appreciative that you've been asked, look them in the eyes, and speak up.
In the wise words of the late Steve Jobs, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas there are. You have to pick carefully." So starting picking carefully!
Follow Azeem Khan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@AZ33MKHAN