Essentialism Energy output

Illustration from Greg McKeown’s Essentialism

Please! Share your best practices for saying no graciously. I’ve tried to be kind, but gotten radio silence in response. Here are two examples that left me feeling badly.

One new acquaintance offered me a personality assessment after she heard me speak, you know, like a Myers Briggs-type test. I’m curious enough to see what’s out there and, after a couple of attempts via broken links, received the online quiz. In each question, you had to choose a most/least likely response. After reading through 2-3 of them, I decided that even taking the test was giving up more time than I wished. You know that feeling? Why am I doing this? I wrote to the woman who made the offer, graciously thanked her for thinking of me, but that I was guarding my time obsessively these days and would respectfully decline moving forward. I thought I’d receive a ‘thanks for letting me know,’ but heard nothing back after that.

Same week a colleague reached out to me for advice on a business request. Everything in her message shouted, “I don’t want to do this!” I completely supported her in not taking on the pro bono assignment and said, “You make this easy. Just say no.” Again, I thought I’d receive an acknowledgment for my consideration of her concern, but again, crickets.

Am I being too harsh? I’ve been accused of abruptness. Please weigh in.

I’m particularly moved currently to preserve my time for what’s most important to me in my work life. After serving my clients which is top priority, I am spending 8-10 hours per week writing. Anyone who wants to write knows how difficult it is to hold the boundary on writing time. It can be extremely porous since you’re only accountable to yourself–“Oh, I’ll just take 15 minutes out of this block of time to make that call, sign up for this new program, etc.” McKeown wrote about naming his writing time as MONK MODE. Any suggestions for what to call mine? MEMOIR MODE?

The illustration above shows what happens when we segment our time vs. when we focus it. It’s from a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown which was recommended to me by a friend. He told me it alter my relationship with saying no vs. yes. He’s right.

McKeown names Parts and Chapters with active verbs like: Explore, Eliminate, Clarify and Dare. My favorite illustration of a gracious “no” came from Peter Drucker to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s request for an interview. Here’s a part of Drucker’s response –

I am greatly honored and flattered by your kind letter…for I have admired your work for many years…But, I am afraid I have to disappoint you. I could not possibly answer your questions…I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity…is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours.

Would you have responded to that kind ‘no, thank you.’ Am I being unreasonable to expect anything when I say no?


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