Getting to ‘No’

The NO Diary

“The oldest shortest words – ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ – are those that require the most thought.” (Pythagoras)

It’s also one of the very first you learn, after ‘mama’ of ‘dada’. The word is ‘No’.

‘No’ asserts your power and autonomy. It separates you from the world and other people. That’s more important than anything else, as the parents of any two year old will know.

Fast forward into adulthood. Now you can be available 24/7 by cell phone, email and messaging. And because it is possible to respond instantly, there’s an expectation that we should respond instantly.

Our time is under constant pressure, squeezed by demands from others and the demands we make on ourselves.


Unless you have a superhero costume hidden in your wardrobe, you can’t do it all. The more you do, the more you are asked to do. (Guess who gets asked to do extra important work? Not the average worker but the person who is so good at getting things done. The reward for doing more work is… more work.)

There are two ways to be ineffective. The first is to do nothing. At least this way is stress free. The second one is to try to do everything.

There are always more interesting things to do out there than there is time to do them. This means to be productive and creative, you have to be selective.

You have to fall back on that small and very powerful word. ‘No.’ You choose what you pay attention to. ‘No’ is the key to paying attention.

This is not about the essential work you are contracted to do, but about cutting out the distractions that stop you from doing it.

Here’s a useful phrase: ‘Thank you and no.’ Not ‘Thank you but no’.

‘Thank you and no’ is simpler and easier. With practise you can really enjoy it.

Be clear about your real priorities, that means you’re clear about your values – what’s important to you.

How do you measure your success?

(Apart from a feeling of less stress.)

Recommendation: start a No Diary.

Write down all the things you say ‘No’ to during the day. Give the reason why.
It makes inspiring reading later. So many thing that seemed important, looking back, turn out to be trivial. You’ll have more time for what’s important.

Some of the things you say ‘No’ to will be supercool and interesting. It’ll be hard to say no.

There is no shortage of fascinating things in the world and you’ll have some space to consider them.

Here’s your No Diary

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The NO Diary


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