Learn how to say no and focus on your priorities and goals

5 Ways to Say NO and Focus on Your Goals

We often say yes because we’re caught off guard – people might ask us for something at the last minute or as we’re leaving for the day. You need to prepare yourself with your “no” excuses.

In my previous post, The Power of Priorities, and episode 006 of the podcast, I went over the different levels of priorities and how we should be categorizing our own to help us achieve goals. I’ll give a quick run down of those priorities here before we can decide what to say no to.


Where Do Your Priorities Lie?


  • Priority One: Important and urgent. They align with your goals and what you want to do and are time-sensitive. They are the top priorities that you have to tackle every day
  • Priority Two: Important and non-urgent. This is where you want to spend the majority of your time! These items align with your goals as well, and since they aren’t exactly time-sensitive, you can put focus and creativity into them.
  • Priority Three: Unimportant but urgent. These are things you have to deal with because they have a deadline, and they don’t necessarily align with your goals.

Where do you think you’re spending most of your time? You need to get rid of items in your priority three task list as much as possible. When you clear space in your mind, it allows you to be open to new ideas and to create.

Although priority three tasks will always be there because they are things like picking up dry cleaning, returning emails, etc., we still need to work on filtering them out. And this is where we learn to say no.


Learn to say NO


Change your mindset a little bit. Don’t do it all. Sharing the load will make life much easier and allow you to bank up extra time.

So delegate – give the job to someone else. This can be difficult for several reasons. Sometimes I can feel guilty for giving a job to someone else. But that’s where we need to learn to let go of some of that guilt and realize that that person may enjoy the task and appreciate the money they make from doing it!

It can be hard delegating because of perfectionism. You have certain ways you want things done, and you need it done right. That’s something else to let go of. Give another person a chance, and if you have suggestions on how it can be done more efficiently, let them know.


5 Ways to Say No


Some people just have a really hard time saying no to certain people and requests. Here’s my go-to list of 5 excuses that are great for anyone to use in everyday life:

  1. Blame it on your budget. “I’m so sorry, that doesn’t fit in my budget at this month, but I really appreciate the invitation.” That’s a great one when somebody asks you to grab drinks after work and you really don’t want to.
  2. Blame it on your schedule. “Oh that sounds like something I’d love, unfortunately I’m so over committed right now, but thank you so much for thinking of me.”
  3. Blame it on somebody else. “Oh, you know what? We would really enjoy that event but that’s our family night and I know that-” … your husband, your child, whoever, “-is really looking forward to it. I just can’t cancel.” Or, “I promised my husband I wouldn’t take on any new projects right now.” Feel free to blame it on somebody else.
  4. Blame it on exhaustion. “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m going to keep that night open. I’m usually really tired on Monday nights and I really need that time to relax and recharge for my family.”
  5. Just say no. Say it with a smile and be friendly! Did I sound unfriendly in any of those excuses I gave? You can say it in a really nice way, but you really don’t even have to give an explanation of why something doesn’t work for you. Just say, “No, thank you,” and say it nicely.

“When you clear space in your mind, it allows you to be open to new ideas and to create.”


Saying no does not mean that you’re a poor planner or a bad person at all. It doesn’t even mean you’re over scheduled. On the contrary, it really means you’re taking care of yourself and focusing on your main priorities.


What Does Saying No Really Mean?


The things we’re saying yes to when we say no – we’re saying yes to quality time with our loved ones and our friends. We’re saying yes to making yourself a priority. We’re saying yes to having a reasonable workload. We’re saying yes to being in control of your own schedule.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “hey – this sounds a lot like me and something I need help with.” Then take a few minutes and jot down your new ways to say ‘no’ in your planner, journal, notepad, etc. and keep it handy. Feel free to take any or all suggestions I listed here or think of your own and put your personal spin on it. Keeping these “no” excuses handy will be a great reminder of what your priorities are and are not. If you need more inspiration and guidance, have a listen to episode 007 of my podcast where I talk all about saying no.

Remember that saying NO now, means saying YES later, and I’ll be talking about that in my blog post and podcast next week!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton