No, No, No, No, Maybe Yes

No, No, No, No, Maybe Yes

Know How To No

Saying no is one of the most important skills of successful founders and leaders. It helps you focus, gives you time to execute, and preserves your energy and mental health.

Simple, right?

If only it was!

It’s hard to say no because:

  1. You want to help.
  2. You find many things interesting.
  3. You don’t want to disappoint people.
  4. You see the potential benefit.
  5. You feel productive when you’re busy.

Most people (including me) are continually honing their “saying no” skills.

The first part of saying no is to decide if you should say no. Duh.

But this can be agonizing, time consuming, and stressful if you’re not clear and prepared.

Here are 10 simple frameworks and prompts to help you quickly arrive at a yes or no.

10 Simple Ways To Decide Yes Or No

1. Hell Yeah or No.

A classic from Derek Sivers.

2. If this event/activity/project in 6 months was tomorrow, would I say yes?

A great question from Mo Bunnell. It’s easy to say yes when things are far away. Force yourself to consider it’s true importance rather than mentally defer the decision.

3. Warren Buffett: Say No To Almost Everything

He’s a pretty smart dude. 😉

4. Default to “no.”

Most of us want to say yes by default. Flip the script. The “yes” has to be carefully considered and truly earned.

5. Does it feel like a “should” or a “want to”?

Avoid the “shoulds” whenever you can! It’s true for networking and beyond.

6. Schedule important non-meeting items.

Book time for priorities like reading, thinking, or long term projects. Put them on your calendar and make them non-negotiable. You’ll quickly see what you actually have time for.

7. Do I understand the true cost of this yes?

A.T. Gimbel reminds us to think about the tradeoffs. Make it concrete by identifying the time you’ll spend, the dollars you won’t earn, or the other goals you’ll be letting go of by saying yes to the wrong thing.

8. “Saying no frees you up to say yes when it matters most.” - Adam Grant

Just because you have the time doesn’t mean you should. Don’t miss out something great that comes up because you’re too busy with “eh” commitments.

9. Reframe it.

What you’re really doing is saying “yes” to something else that’s more important. Spell it out if you need to: “I’m not saying no to my friend. I’m saying yes to my family.”  

10. Audit your time.

Does your calendar match your stated priorities? You’ll likely spot items that should be dropped or delegated. Constant vigilance is required to avoid “yes” creep!


Once you have clarity on yes or no, it’s time to put it into action.

Yes is easy. Everyone loves to hear yes.

But how can you say no in a kind or motivating way that doesn’t burn bridges?

For more k-no-wledge, check out specific phrases to use when saying “no” and a 3 step process to say no to your boss!

What other frameworks or prompts have you found to be helpful when deciding yes or no??