In my many years of working and being in business, I had always thought that you never say ‘no’ to any customer or potential customers (apart from the most ridiculous requests). I think I married that along with the ‘customers always right whatever’ philosophy in my psyche. Last year, though, I thought I would try a few ‘noes’ and the result was I lost no business but gained a bit of professional happiness and confidence.
Very often the more you give, the more someone takes. I don’t blame anyone for that for it is the person giving that has allowed the situation to happen. If you are worth your weight though then your clients and friends will take whatever you give. I don’t suggest you short change anyone but I think it is fair to set boundaries and keep to them.
Take for instance after hour or weekend calls and emails. I used to jump on all emails no matter when they came in. I always seem to have my mobile or iPad to hand even when I am relaxing in front of the television or reading the newspaper. Last year I decided that my limit to replying was 6pm and anything after that time would get a response in the morning. Lo and behold, no one seemed to mind.
The same goes for meetings. I started telling new clients a few years ago what my hours of availability were and they did not include nights and weekends (without prior agreement for the odd time). That set my boundaries and hasn’t affected business one bit.
One of the hardest ‘noes’ is turning down a new business opportunity. I find saying no to anyone asking for my help very difficult but realistically you do need to understand what business you want to do and what that is worth. I have taken my fair share of work on that just doesn’t pay so I am learning the fine of art of turning down work. It isn’t always easy saying no in this case but when you do, it can be very empowering.
All this goes a long way to achieving a better work-life balance. We all deserve our own space and me-time as well as contentment for what we do. Clients will understand this as long as it is clear from the outset. And think of it as doing them a favour too as you will be in a better place to help them and not waste time – you might also be teaching them the idea of doing the same.