When You Say Yes, You Must Mean YES

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

September 3, 2012

Not saying “no” is, very often, one of our main time thieves. In general, it can be very difficult to refuse to do what people ask us for, even if it means putting their priorities before ours and thereby diminishing our overall personal productivity.

I am not going to give you more reasons why you should say no to situations that do not contribute anything to your life and take away the time you need to achieve your true goals. Instead, I’m going to explain when and how you should say “yes.”


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September 3, 2012

Not saying “no” is, very often, one of our main time thieves. In general, it can be very difficult to refuse to do what people ask us for, even if it means putting their priorities before ours and thereby diminishing our overall personal productivity.

I am not going to give you more reasons why you should say no to situations that do not contribute anything to your life and take away the time you need to achieve your true goals. Instead, I’m going to explain when and how you should say “yes.”

First, saying yes means making a commitment. Put yourself in the shoes of whoever asked you the question to which you’re responding. It’s very disappointing when you rely on the promises that someone makes, and you eventually realize that he or she really had no intention of ever actually following through. It is very frustrating because your plans include that task as part of a larger job, for which you are accountable.

Thinking about it from this perspective makes clear that if you are willing to say yes to doing something, you should be able to avoid vague phrases like “I hope to get it done in a few days,” and should clearly express your commitment using phrases like “I will finish it by Thursday.” In the latter example, you are clearly saying that you (and no one else) are going to do something, with a clear deadline.

It may be that you commit to do something and you cannot make it for reasons out of your hands. In this case, do not act like a victim of the situation. There is always something that is under your control, so there is always something you can fully commit to doing. You can commit only to perform specific actions over which you have control and that will bring you closer to the target. If, after all, you can’t make it on these smaller commitments (that sometimes happens too), the most important thing is to raise warnings as soon as possible to whoever you committed to, so they can seek alternative solutions.

In short, if you say yes, you must mean yes. You really must have the sincere intention of doing it. Use language that clearly defines your commitment, and then make every effort to carry it out.

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