“What do you want me to prioritize first?”
It was a question that made me stop and think.
A few years ago, I sent a ton of work to a writer on my team. When faced with numerous deadlines, she simply asked what I wanted her to prioritize.
It was her way of saying no without actually saying no.
As a leader and entrepreneur, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is learn to say no. But no doesn’t always mean coming right out and saying the word. There are gentler ways to turn someone down or make them realize their request is too much.
In the case of my writer, her response wasn’t a total “No”–it was more of a “Not all at once.”
It’s good to get in the habit of asking yourself what tasks to prioritize. The less important tasks will get pushed back or fall off completely. If they aren’t worth making it in the top one or two tiers of priority, they likely aren’t worth saying yes to.
Similarly, you can ask your leaders and colleagues this question, especially when there are multiple tasks or projects on the table at once.
Taking a step back to prioritize tasks allows you to say no to the tasks that aren’t important and yes to the things that keep you moving in the right direction.
It’s easy to say yes to everything, but most of us do so at the expense of saying no to ourselves; this is a terrible way to live and lead.
To succeed in the future of work, everyone–leaders, entrepreneurs, freelancers, entry-level employees–has to learn to say no. And we can say no without actually saying no.
Focusing on the essential tasks and saying no to the rest is crucial for mental health in our personal and professional lives.
And it all starts with a simple question.
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