We’re encouraged to say yes, most of the time. Yes to new projects, new clients, extra training and networking. If we run a business or freelance, the pressure to say yes to new work can be intense, too.


Unhelpful thoughts might chip in – what if we miss out? This could be the career-defining opportunity? Couldn’t it?

However, I believe perpetual yeses will, in the end, send us a little bit crazy. Saying yes to things others ask us to do means we can’t say yes to the things we want to spend time on.


Saying no requires a quiet confidence in knowing that a clear no to the wrong thing will mean a clear yes to the right thing.

How do you get to quiet confidence?


1) Time to think


I encourage my clients to put aside specific time in their week to reflect on their achievements, times they have shown strength and times they have felt uncomfortable and overwhelmed, and the consequent direction they’ve found themselves taking. What do they really enjoy? Confidence can develop from knowing yourself better.


2) Focus


Where the focus goes, energy flows. If you want to focus on something, then what needs to be cleared from your schedule for this to be achieved? Do you have to be in that meeting? Can you delegate some busy work? Are you spreading yourself too thin to make an impact?


3) Actually saying no


The hard bit. To help, ask yourself a couple of key questions.


  • Will this help me achieve a future goal/ ambition?
  • Does this fulfil me professionally or personally?
  • How will this affect my time and energy levels for other things in my life?


These questions can be applied to the small things (meeting requests, networking/ coffee chats) and the bigger things too (a new project, new client or new contract).

Every week, start to make a short list of things you said no to. Start small, and see how it feels. I hope you will start to see space opening up in your life for things you really want.

Claire Vivyan Roberts is an ICF and WABC accredited executive coach.