Say no when you need to and when you want to.
"Can you cover my shift?"
Would you like to join our organization?"
"Can I commission you?"
"Can you cover this event?"
"This project is perfect for you. Can you do it?"
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
I'm the type of person to say "yes" by default. Somewhere in the library of productivity books I've read in the past few years, I picked up the habit of taking every possible opportunity that comes my way. Certainly, it's a good habit; every goal I've achieved has come from taking opportunities.
But, recently, lying in bed under the weight of overwhelming stress, I started to feel like I've taken it too far. I've said "yes" too many times.
"The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything," Warren Buffett once said, describing the importance of saving your time and energy for only the tasks which are essential to your growth and success.
That doesn't mean that you should say "no" to experiences you will enjoy or opportunities to help others — those are good things which enrich life and refresh your soul. You need them in order to avoid burnout.
However, it's worth it to weigh different opportunities and focus on the ones which truly mean the most. Sometimes, this might mean turning down an invitation to join a good campus organization in order to give your complete focus to your current extracurriculars. It might mean turning down a night out with friends and taking the opportunity to catch up on sleep. It might mean saying "no" to taking on an additional project because you simply have too much on your plate.
At some point, your plate reaches the limit which it can hold. When this happens, every area of your life suffers. Suddenly, instead of producing a fair amount of creative, high-quality work, you are completing a large amount of mediocre, less-meaningful tasks.
"Instead of working longer and harder, we should focus our time and energy on the activities that deliver the biggest results and bring us more happiness," said business coach Mark Pettit. According to Pettit, learning to say "no" comes down to valuing your limited energy supply and using it carefully.
"It's essential to preserve and nurture your physical and mental strength to ensure you are energized, focused, and productive every day," he said. "Stop saying 'yes' to people, projects, and things that lower your energy and bring little or no results."
If you are currently a college student, this may be the busiest your life has ever been. People and commitments constantly compete for your focus. It can be so easy to get caught up in college life and begin saying "yes" to everything, hungry for adventure and new experiences. But if the overwhelm is starting to creep in, it might be time to introduce the word "no."
By focusing only on the people and activities that mean the most to you personally and professionally, your college experience will feel much more fulfilling, and your performance will be much higher in the specific areas that you prioritize.
Saying "no" might feel challenging at first, but it will eventually feel empowering to assert your worth. Saying "no" makes it mean more when you say "yes."
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