Get Your (Business) Priorities Straight

Repeat after me: No.

No. No. No. And no.

Now, think about what your workweek would look like—and where your company might be today—if you’d used the word  “no” a little more often.

(Awkward silence.)

I’m right there with you: The Ultimate Yes Woman.

“Yes,” because I have varied interests and a ridiculous amount of curiosity, and because I inherently like to be part of a team and get caught up in the excitement of making things happen. “Yes,” because as a mom who stayed home with her five kids for many years, I am eager to expand my career experience and make up for lost time.

Good intentions, but not the wisest allocation of my time and energy, or yours.

We’ve all done it: You take on a side project because “it’s a great opportunity” to enhance your resume, beef up your online profile, grow your company’s visibility, fuel a passion…

You’re good at it, and you love the work, so you don’t worry about the extra hours you’re putting in, or the fact that those hours spent in the name of someone else’s bottom line, could—and should—have been spent growing your own.

Welcome to Business Lessons You Usually Have to Learn the Hard Way, one of the many “Aha!” moments experienced by  business owners in just about every industry. “No” is one of the most valuable assets a business owner has. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything—unless, you don’t use it.

Ask the people around you, who are proven leaders, and most will have the same advice: When you stop making other peoples’ priorities yours, a whole new world opens up—a world where you, and your goals, are Number One.

For some people, this is much easier said than done. There’s enough possibility in many of these so-called “great opportunities,” that saying “no” feels like the bigger mistake. As this article points out though, it’s mind over matter. By saying “no” you actually give yourself more time to pursue those activities that enhance your life. Giving your mind a break will leave you feeling more energized and more effective in every area of your life, including your career.

So where do you start?

Awhile ago, I posted about goal setting. If your goals are not clear, it makes it that much easier to bypass them. It’s your job to get yourself from Point A to Point B. When a request for your time is made, ask yourself, how saying “yes” will help you meet your goals. If you come up empty-handed, your answer should be a hard and fast “no.”

There are many terrific resources out there for helping business leaders pinpoint their company’s North Star. Likewise, there are plenty of quality reads centered on fine-tuning your own sense of direction. Since our careers and personal lives are more entwined than ever, particularly for those who have online personas to maintain, evaluating priorities across the board is critical.

If the opportunities presented to you are not clearly aligned with your goals, it’s in your best interest to show restraint. If you’re itching to put in extra hours, chances are that you’ve got plenty of to-dos on your desk or around the house to keep you busy. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and realize you’ve got time for a walk, hitting the gym or reading a book. That might not get you a retweet, or any extra dough, but it will keep you mentally and physically fit to keep up with that busy schedule.

Being superwoman is a noble pursuit. But being the master of your own destiny is far more rewarding.





Dawn Elyse Warden-Reeder

A former lifestyles magazine editor and reporter covering an array of topics including philanthropy and business, health and well-being, sustainability, fashion, music and food, Dawn entered the public relations and social media field in 2010 as Executive Partner of The Whole Enchilada PR, now the culinary division of The Warden Ettinger Group. You can find Dawn on LinkedIn and Twitter (@eatDEWwrite).

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  1. says

    What a great post! This applies to my work in academia too – although not business, we are ever growing our influence through research, presentations, and publications – but many “good opportunities” stand in the way time wise for getting us there in an efficient manner!

  2. Eileen Collins says

    I found this post at just the right time. Saying “NO” hasn’t always come easy for me, even when it wasn’t in my best interest to say yes. Thanks for the perspective and giving me another tool to set my priorities and keep them set.

  3. brown says

    Most people should empower themselves with business and entrepreneurship skills.This will provide a means of employment and improve our economy.

  4. Jim Nico says

    This started out as a very well written article, and I will grant there are some good points for those who need more self restraint, but sadly it denigrates into an anthem, a credo, even a clarion call for self promoters and the chronically self absorbed. The most important question is not whether ‘getting sidetracked over to someone else s agenda’ conflicts with your goals–but when there is a conflict you want to assess whether there is synergy or guess on whether you can collaborate and help each other to see if there is synergy. The opposite path is selfish, and often times is also the sign of narcissism. In simple terms–see if you can both gain before you dismiss working together. And beware of generalizing and black and white thinking–to see the exceptions.

  5. says

    Hi Jim. Thanks for starting a worthy discussion here. I have some thoughts that I would like to contribute, however, I would prefer to do that when my mind is a bit fresher. I would like to say, though, that I am a big fan of collaboration and really enjoy being a part of a hardworking, like-minded team. (And, am in fact, on a couple.) My point was more about “qualifying” the opportunities that you say “yes” to, in a very honest, objective way. I think we all wind up doing things that might not meet our career goals nor, our personal goals. Those are not great choices. But, I am not referring to selfish, ego-driven goals. Rather, I am referring to fulfilling goals that you’ve set—for instance, me wanting to write a book—but that you allow yourself to get distracted from so that you feel unfulfilled over time. Again, I would love to continue this discussion and sincerely appreciate your thoughtful comment.