4 Key Questions for Determining When to Say No

Most of the leaders I know complain about being too busy. Life seems to be moving at warp speed, and electronic media only accelerates the pace. Now nearly everyone has access to your attention, day or night.

As a result, many leaders over commit, taking on too many meetings, too many projects, too many opportunities—not all of which fit either the vision or the time available.

The simple reason why so many leaders’ schedule is too full? They don’t know how to say no.

In fairness, most of the things we commit to are good things. They’re just not the best uses for our time.

Here’s a simple grid for evaluating every opportunity, whether it’s a lunch appointment or a major new venture. Ask these four questions of every appointment on your calendar. If any of the answers is “no,” delete it and move on.

  1. Is it God honoring?

Many opportunities seem too good to be true because they are. They may strain the limits of our integrity or appeal only to our baser instincts. Will this new project advance the common good—or is this about your ego? Does it have an eternal dimension, or is money the bottom line?

There’s no way to make a morally or ethically questionable venture produce good results.

  1. Will it add quality or merely quantity?

Our society believes that more for more’s sake is an absolute good, but it isn’t. At the end of the day, do you want to be known as the person who sold the most widgets, or the producer who added value with every sale? Will pitching to one more client enhance your ability to deliver quality, or just give you more calls to answer?

Choose the activities that make you and others better, not merely bigger.

  1. How will it affect my well-being?

You are the most important resource you possess. And you are no good to your teammates, your boss, or your family if you do not take care of yourself. Yes, there are times when you must run on a physical or emotional deficit in order to push through a hectic season. But that’s a lousy lifestyle, and it can’t last. Will this meeting improve my ability to be a good leader, or just take more of my precious time? Is this trip necessary to ensure success, or is it just another night on the road?

  1. Can anyone do this besides me?

None of us is indispensible, though we often think otherwise. In fact, most of what we do can be done quicker, cheaper, and better by someone else. An important step in evaluating your schedule is to determine your unique value, then concentrate your time on activities that produce that value. Can anyone else respond to these messages? Do I have to be involved in that meeting? Is there someone with greater expertise who can make that decision?

Every day you have a “cash” reserve of 1,440 minutes. You can’t afford to waste them on any activity that doesn’t add value to your life and advance the goals of your organization. Say yes to what matters most, and no to everything else.

Would you add any questions to this decision-making grid? Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook!