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No’ is a little word with big impact. Use it wisely.

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“No.” It’s one of the hardest words to say in the workplace – especially in this economy. How many times have you found yourself swamped by work, yet saying ‘yes’ to extra responsibilities and tasks? It’s easy to give into fear of appearing rude or selfish, or thinking that we will earn our place by doing what’s asked – even if it’s at the detriment to the quality of our work or personal life.

In my experience, there is so much anxiety around the implications of using this monosyllabic monster that it is easy to forget that sometimes it’s okay to say no. To stay productive and minimize stress, you have to learn the art of saying no. If you have problems saying no, you're not alone. Many people find it so difficult to refuse, especially in the workplace setting.

Here's the thing: you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments - you simply spread yourself too thin. If you always say yes to everything that is asked of you, you may not always be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

So here are a few tips to help you learn how to say no - at the right time, place and moment:

Know your priorities and the value of your time. When someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to something, and you know deep down that you simply have a lot on your plate, be firm enough to say that your plate is overloaded. Remember, even if you do have some extra time, you're trading this in exchange for time with more pressing matters at work or time with your family and friends.

Practice saying “no.” You know what they say about practicing and perfection. Saying "no" as whenever you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word.

Don’t over-apologize. To somewhat lessen our guilt, we often say sorry when we say no because it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, sometimes, apologizing can make your "no" sound weaker. Know when you need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time and priorities.

Don’t lie. Be honest with your coworkers. Everyone has experienced ‘to do list’ overload at one time or another in their career, and so the explanation is best in its simplest form.

Think it over. If you're unsure about whether or not you can take on the request, you can tell the person you'll give their request some thought and get back to them. This is a good way to allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Just say that you'll get back to them (make sure you do) or maybe ask if it can be done at a later time, when you have more time on your hands.

Learn the art of saying no, and you will feel more confident about yourself. Others will also start seeing you in a different light, and you will then have more time for the more important things such as family and girlfriends.

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