Yes is possibly one of the most harmful words we have in our vocabulary. It hurts our productivity and can harm our sanity. Let me tell you about Bob starting his business. He said yes to every request happily because he needed money to pay the bills. He was quickly full which was awesome. His problem is that he always said yes to everyone around him, even when it was for less money than he wanted to work. At the end of a few years he was still working all hours and was just making the bills. He wanted out but he just kept saying yes.

Saying yes to every possible client that comes our way seems like the right thing to do but in most cases it’s actually hurting your business and here’s why.

1. You’re not working on your strengths

I know we want to help people and we’ve been trained that we need to default to YES. Defaulting to YES does gets us doing work that’s outside of our strengths. If you’re best dealing with numbers and someone asks you for help to chair a meeting, is that really where you’d best serve the organization? Would you be more useful to them working with their books or logistics? Saying no to the opportunity with the board frees you up to say yes when an opportunity that suits your strengths comes along.

2. You have no margin

If you’re always saying YES when someone asks for your help then you have no margin in your life. You end up with no room to say YES again. Friday is full with helping someone move. Saturday is some extra work for a client who convinced you to say yes to a deadline you didn’t really have time for. Sunday has an hour for the family but then you’ve got a bunch of other things to finish up. And so it goes.

If you’re always saying yes then when that really amazing opportunity comes along like meeting an industry leader on a plane who invites you join them for a dinner conversation, you simply have no more room and can’t say yes without disappointing one of the other people you said yes to.

3. Breaks your credibility

Back to my example from the first point. If you say yes to that board meeting it’s likely you’re not going to perform at your peak which will hurt your reputation as a peak performer. Even worse is when you realize that the job is so draining you simply continue and you back out. You’ve now become the person that doesn’t meet their obligations.

4. Lack of boundaries

Just a few months ago a local business association was looking for volunteers. I was in the room as they made the rounds asking each person for time volunteering. When they came to my friend and I and asked I gave a simple no and they left it alone. My friend also said ‘no’ but see he has this problem with boundaries. It’s well known if you just bug him he’ll eventually say yes. So months later they kept bugging him (I didn’t hear anything) and he said yes and he hates the time he spends with them.

I’ve said no to lots of things and set clear boundaries which means the businesses locally respect my boundaries. My No is No and my Yes is Yes. Do you respect the business owners you know that have clear boundaries or the ones that are all wishy washy with what they say and do?

5. Your productivity is dead

It’s great to be the ‘go to’ person isn’t it. Everyone knows that if they need something they come to you and it gets done. But does it really get done well? What about the things that are really your responsibility? Are they getting done or do they get overlooked by you as you run around for everyone else? How stressed out are you with all this extra stuff to do? Isn’t your family getting the short end of the stick as you work all hours to try and possibly keep up with everything?

Bill’s friend

Now let’s meet Bill’s friend, Bob. Bob also said yes a lot at first but something felt wrong to him about that. Sure he needed to get off the ground but then he started saying no to clients that didn’t meet his budget requirements. Then he started to say no to projects that didn’t look interesting. Then he started saying no to any project that didn’t meet his ideal client profile.

After a few years he was working with clients he loved on fun projects that paid well. While he has a few seasons each year that require a more time working, he also has many seasons where he gets to spend plenty of time with his family and doing other things outside of his work. Things that make him happy. He isn’t scraping by and he loves his work.

If you want to be like Bob, stop saying yes to everything.

Featured photo credit: thematthewknot via flickr.com

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