A 5-Step Road Map for Saying ‘No’

Even when you’re feeling pressured to say ‘yes’

Erin Zammett Ruddy
Forge
Published in
2 min readSep 22, 2020

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No left turn sign with a one way right turn sign.
Photo: Simon McGill/Getty Images

Making the best use of your time means knowing when — and how — to say no. The time-management expert, author, and regular contributor to Forge, Laura Vanderkam puts it like this: “The question isn’t would I rather do this thing or nothing, it’s would I rather do this thing or everything else in my already packed life that I’m currently living.”

To make the most of your time, you will need to say no to things that aren’t particularly aligned with your personal or professional goals. Clear your calendar and energy to say yes to the big stuff, the meaningful, the exciting, and potentially scary but boundary-pushing stuff that would actually be enriching to take on. Remember, saying no to something now will allow you to say yes to something else later.

Here’s how to say no in a way you can feel good about (even if you feel like you’re expected to say yes):

1. Remind yourself that time is valuable and once it’s spent you absolutely can’t get it back.

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Erin Zammett Ruddy
Forge
Writer for

author of The Little Book of Life Skills (September 2020), contributing editor at Parents and longtime magazine editor and writer. @erinzruddy on Instagram.