The difference between successful people and very successful is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything ~ Warren Buffet

It’s no secret that among the first lessons of managing your time in the workplace is learning to say “no” to projects or work, if it will mean stretching yourself thin. It makes sense to focus on what you have in hand and do it well rather than take on too many projects and then fail at all of them. Ok, that may be an extreme case and may you succeed with some but then you’re left with no time for yourself and being constantly stressed out.

The truth is it’s easier said than done. I know there are books, articles and countless numbers of gurus out there who lecture us on this. In practice, the situation is not always that simple.

Sometimes it’s very hard to say “no” without being rude or sounding rude. These days organizations are complex and we often don’t have one single boss. We work in matrix of senior staff. When someone senior in the organization comes up to you and says, “would you kindly pretty please do this for me?”… what are you supposed to say… “No, I don’t have the time?”. I realize that there may be a better way of saying it but the truth is no matter how you sugarcoat it, the answer is still no and they will go back with some ill-feeling. Or they will think you’re trying to shirk responsibilities. (What’s keeping him / her so busy anyway?) Worse still… what if someday, you need this guy. People can bear a grudge.

I have known no way of handling such situations without either being passive-aggressive (say yes and do it when I can) or feeling some annoyance from the person asking. May be it’s my problem and I hope I can find a better way.