I even snuck in one of my favorite Gilmore Girls quotes. (If you can find it, you officially become one of my favorite people.)
In the comments section of that post, Katie from Art Spreads Joy asked if I could write a follow-up post on figuring out when to say no, especially when you come up with a bunch of amazing ideas but you don’t have time to do all of them.
I’ve got ya back, Katie!
And, I absolutely know the feeling when you want to do all the things, but you have to choose because you also have to feed your dog and sometimes eat and sleep.
My simple yet effective way of figuring out what to say no to is to answer the following five questions. If you answer ‘no’ to any of these, you should probably say no to the opportunity or creative idea, at least for now. You can always scribble it down in an ideas notebook to keep for later.
Question 1: Is it a pop the champagne, sprinkle the confetti kind of yes?
This is the simplest way to rule out anything, especially when you’re almost booked to capacity and can only take on one or two more things before going into complete panic mode.
Is this the kind of yes that makes you want to pop the champagne and sprinkle confetti? You know what I mean. The kind of yes that makes you squeal a little. The kind of yes that you can’t wait to tell your best biz friend about. The kind of yes that makes you want to dance around your living room while blasting ‘Bust a Move’ by Young MC.
If it’s not that kind of yes, it’s probably not worth your time. You became a girl boss for a reason, right? Top of that list is that you get to make all the decisions. (Okay, top of that list is wearing fuzzy slippers to work but making all the decisions is next.)
When I start thinking about saying yes to something because I’ve got that ‘well-I-could-maybe-fit-this-in’ guilt because I care about the person asking or I’ve got a little extra time, I remind myself that one of the best perks of running my own business is filling my time with stuff that makes me feel great.
Whether it’s a ‘meh’ business idea that you think will be really profitable or an interview request that just doesn’t feel quite right, it’s better to say no so that you have time for the good stuff.
Question 2: Have I already committed to similar projects/opportunities/ideas?
You have a brilliant idea (light bulb moment!) for a new checklist for your email opt-in that you know your ideal customer will love but you haven’t even finished the last checklist that you wanted to use as an email opt-in freebie. Write down the idea and leave it for later.
As creatives, this kind of situation happens a lot. Look a squirrel! And, you’re off working on something else, leaving the last thing half-finished.
If you want to run a successful business, you have to finish projects and ideas. Make a rule with yourself that goes something like this: I can’t start another ______________ until I finish this _______________. And, stick with it.
Same thing for business opportunities. How many guest posts can you write each month? How many interviews do you feel comfortable accepting? How many speaking engagements can you fit into each quarter?
Be honest with yourself. Then when someone asks to interview you and you’re already booked, you can just let them know that you don’t have any openings right now.
Question 3: Will this help me achieve my current business goals?
As a creative entrepreneur, you’re probably inundated with ideas. One really good way to decide which ones to act on is to give it the ‘current business goals’ test.
Will this idea help you reach your business goals?
I’m usually working towards two to three business goals. For example, my biz goals list might look like this: redesign new website, get new program ready for launch and promote CL courses.
If those three things were my current business goals and I came up with a really great idea to gain new Instagram followers, I wouldn’t act on it right now. I’d write it down and give it time in the future if I switch my business goals (and want to work on growing my Instagram following) or have more time (look Ma….a business miracle!)
This also applies to opportunities. If one of your goals is to grow your email list from 200 to 1,000 and you get an interview opportunity that will get you in front of hundreds of your ideal customers, take it, knowing that if they love your interview they’ll probably sign up to receive your emails.
Question 4: Will my future self want to rewind to this moment to give my present self a high-five for saying yes?
I try to think about how I’m going to feel in the future if I say yes to something.
Will I resent having another interview scheduled next week or will I be excited for it? Will I be inspired by another watercolor challenge or will I feel pressure to create when I don’t really feel like it? Will I be glad that I took the time to have lunch with that colleague or will I wish I had spent it with my husband?
We can’t predict the future but we can think about how we’ll feel when it comes time to actually do the thing that we’re saying yes to in this moment. And, that might give you a bit more clarity.
Question 5: Can I realistically take on another project/interview/speaking engagement/creative idea this month?
This is the bottom line. Do you have the time?
I want to be clear that time is all about prioritizing. You can make time for anything that’s important enough. (Just ask my college self who was working 40 hours a week, taking a full load of classes and student teaching but still made time to drive from Virginia to Alabama to visit my boyfriend—now husband—once or twice a month.)
But, only you really know whether adding another to-do to your task list will turn you into the Hulk.
Will you feel even more overwhelmed and stressed, wishing you had said no? Business should be fun—not filled with hair-pulling tantrums. Leave that to toddlers and Donald Trump.
I hope these five questions help you determine what you should say yes to and what you should pass on.
I know it’s hard to pass on creative ideas that you’re excited about, but passing for now doesn’t mean passing forever.