Saying no does not make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a team player. It just means you are protective of your time. Not to be too morbid, but you will never get time back again. This moment, this hour, this day will be over no matter how you use your time. Protect it.

As I travel and speak, I find that many women say yes too often when they should say no. They express how it feels that others are running their lives instead of them feeling in control. They are tired and too busy and need to say no, but struggle with how to do it.

The solution? Think before you answer and have a response ready to go. Especially if you are stressed out about your current calendar or already feeling overcommitted, get in the habit of not saying yes right away. You pick the line (and it needs to be honest); here are a few to choose from or create your own for the situation.

▪ I’m not adding anything to my calendar this month.

▪ My schedule doesn’t allow any wiggle room.

▪ I’m working on a project for my boss that will take the rest of the day.

▪ I am not spending any extra money now.

▪ I’m not available now, but I’ll let you know when my schedule clears up.

▪ I don’t like you. (Maybe don’t use this one.)

▪ My life is so packed that I can’t add anything else.

Learn to say no and red

Or you could use my 13 minutes response in order to be specific. The more specific you are, the more the other person understands that you are being fully honest and forthright with them. The more honest and forthright they think you are being, the more likely they will take no for an answer.

“Can you stay after work and help with X?” Pause, look at your phone, count the actual minutes and say, “I can’t. I have to leave in 13 minutes.”

No matter how many minutes it is in your situation, it is obvious you are being genuine. You aren’t just saying an arbitrary number.

Here are other examples:

“Will you help me with calling the volunteers?”

“I can’t today because I have to leave in four minutes.”

“Will you show me how to operate the new data system?”

“Today won’t work for me because I have to leave in eight minutes.”

Or sometimes instead of no, “not yet” is what you want to say.

“I need the sales figures for all of last year in your department.”

“I can get those to you tomorrow by 1:00 because I plan on finishing (project X) by 11:00.”

“Will you call this list of potential event sites?”

“I’m happy to do that for you, but today is packed with (whatever your boss gave you as a priority before). Would you like me to postpone this and make the calls?”

Once you learn to be honest about what you can accomplish, people will actually respect you more. They will know you mean what you say when you accept or decline an invitation or a request. This reduces stress on both ends and becomes a win-win.

(Excerpt from A Delightfully Short Stress Relief Guide for the Busiest Women by Dr. Susan Harrison, available in ebook or print formats.)