Simplify by Saying “No”


[Tweet “”Simplify.” ~Henry David Thoreau”]

When You Need to Say “No”

Reinventing yourself often involves being courageous and saying “yes” to an idea or opportunity that seems too farfetched or over-the-top to be worthy of consideration.   William Shatner is an example of someone that has used this formula to reinvent himself throughout his life.    Saying “yes” works because discovery is often a process of exploring and taking interesting side trips, a critical activity in recognizing and creating new opportunities.

But when you know where you want to go, focus and direction is what is called for.  When you have determined a course of action and want to achieve momentum, saying “no” may be what you need to practice; it is hard to move forward when you have distractions and obstacles in the way.

Clear the path

Do you need a “Cut the Crap Committee” at your organization?

Julian Richer, CEO and founder of the British audio equipment retail organization decided they did.   In The Richer Way, Richer explains that the Cut the Crap Committee is designed to reduce bureaucracy by limiting unproductive systems and paperwork.   The results:  Richer Sounds holds the Guinness Record for the highest sales per square foot of any retail outlet in the world and also gives the biggest percentage of its profits to charity of any company in the UK.  How do you like dem apples?

So how do you “cut the crap”?

My organizational and individual coaching clients are often telling me that they have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  They understand that they can’t do everything, but what they are not clear on is what to say “no” to.

I have found that it is useful to think about what to say no to this way:  Analyze your task by what is urgent and important.  (Thank you, Steven Covey.)  Put your tasks into one of the four quadrants below:

Say No to What is Not Important.

Say No to What is Not Important.

[Tweet “Focus on the Urgent and Important”]

Focus on what is important first.

That means that you want to prioritize what is in Quadrants I and II as the activities to focus on.  You do want to make sure that you have a balance of the two.  If you spend all your time doing QI activities you will be living a crisis-driven life.  You will need to also find time for the important activities that are not deadline driven.

Use high-energy time to complete important tasks.

Does that mean you have to eliminate all pleasure activities or other tasks that fall into Q III and IV.   No!   The key is to be strategic when you do these activities.  Most people get into the office, settle into their chair and open their email.  As a consequence, they spend valuable high- energy time on mundane tasks, when they should be focusing on the activities that are important and urgent.  Use times during the day when you have low energy or are winding down for those activities.

Once you are clear on what is important, it is easy to say “no” to what isn’t.

Well, it is easier, anyway.  If you have trouble saying “no” regardless of how clear you are on your priorities and time limitations, Ramona Creel has helpful suggestions for saying “no” in different circumstances in her 20 Ways to Say No list.

So, are you ready to, ahem, cut the crap?

Sure you are!  Start saying “no” and create a simpler way of life focused on what is important.

Coaching Questions to ask yourself:  What can you stop doing right now?  What can you get rid of?  What’s the crap you can cut right now?  What would be nice to do, but isn’t important?   

If you are interested in how you can be coached to say “no” and cut the overwhelm in your life, please call me for a complimentary coaching session at 805-448-7681 or schedule a session on line at



P.S. Have you checked out the Leader’s Library on My picks and the reasons why I picked them are all there with links to Amazon. And, if you buy one of these books through the Leader’s Library, I am donating the affiliate money I earn to Better World Books.

Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.

BCC Board Certified Coach #1487


  1. Calla Gold on February 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    What a great blog post! Saying no is a hard thing for a lot of people, especially when they’re not entirely sure what’s most important to begin with. I love the idea of breaking your tasks up. A visual goes a long way!

    • Executive Coach on March 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Glad you found value in this post, Calla. You really summed it up when you said that it is hard to say “no” when you don’t know what is important! Thanks for commenting.

  2. madeleine vite on February 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    yes sometimes I find myself needing a “Cut the Crap Committee” and say no. I will try your task by what is urgent and important. Thank you

    • Executive Coach on March 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Awesome, Mad. Let me know how it works out!

  3. LaShasta on March 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Saying “NO” is such an easy but difficult thing to do. I find the “cutting the crap” committee vital! I wish I had one personally.

    • Executive Coach on March 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Hi Shasta,
      A coach can help you determine what you would like to be saying “no’ to in your life right now! 🙂

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