This is great, and something I often struggle with. I will put together something similar to respond to the amazing people that reach out to me for help.
Great post, very clear. I feel much the same, since I have to think first of all to my company (6 In Rete Consulting,www.6inrete.it),
then to its services (providing financial news, comments, analyses to our clients, financial sites or newspaper and little financial group with no research team), the to its projects and dreams (for instance the development of virtual worlds, that we follow with our site,www.mondivirtuali.it).
Then it's time for family, then sometimes I have to eat, drink and sleep (and yes, having some fun too!). And then maybe I have to think to others projects, ideas, visions or startups. Some of which I like a lot but... time is money, money is getting short, life is even shorter. So I have to choose, as you, what priority order to follow. Sad but necessary.
Have a nice day!
Hell Yeah!! or no. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ehWlVeMrqw
In fact, I think I maybe originally found that via your tweets...
You do just as well as the folks you name. It's very hard to manage gracefully.
I recently read Anything you Want
by Derek Sivers (per your suggestion, thanks!) and I now live by the motto:
"Hell Yeah" or "No"
If someone asks me to do something, and I'm not saying "Hell Yeah I want to do that!" about it, I just say no. It's a painful choice in the short term and sometimes I feel like a jerk, but it works out great in the long term.
Saying yes to everyone and spreading myself too thin is a disservice to me and the people I say yes too.
ANother great and useful article that might come to use to developers like me.
I like the idea of putting your email in Python: it's a good way to prevent automatic harvesting of your email
Well put! No doubt, it is definitely hard to say no.
If I might add another resource to the list - VentureFizz has a tremendous amount of useful content for entrepreneurs (where we also republish some of your great posts).
Our blog section called Voices:
To focus is to say No! - Steve Jobs 1997
Could not agree more this is a lesson that I have just learnt after 4 years and saying yes to much..
Great post, I am facing this very thing right now. There are too many exciting ideas out there and just not enough time!
by far my biggest weakness. The alure of new fun ventures, so hard to resist.
No ... one of the shortest words ...why do we take so long to say it!
A very useful post to newbie entrepreneurs. I was just about to send out an email to someone I knew from a long time ago and with whom I got back in touch recently. I wanted to see if she could give feedback on my startup business plan. Your post got me thinking if I should perhaps approach her differently.
I'm so with you Dharmesh! My first priority is my business, The Essay Expert. Sometimes it's hard to know what activities will support the business and which are just a way to spend time. How do you distinguish between the two?
I recently discovered the effectiveness of saying "Ok, we are a phone company. What does that have to do with phones?" which usually cuts to the heart of the yes or no question.
Love your comments!! What I have learned (the hard way) is that it's focus that pays off. I am a deal junkie and love the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs. BUT I now have created my own rating system to screen ideas. I must totally get the business proposition, it must address a "big bleeding neck wound" (ie an absolutely slam dunk obvious gap), it must have over the top leadership (15% inspiration and 85% perspiration) and I must truly understand the value I can add. It's OK to say NO a lot and to really have the time and energy when you want to say YES.
Great reminder and perfect timing Dharmesh. A few months I started a Pay-Per-Click (ppc) Consulting biz www.clicktoast.com)
and things are getting super-busy. I need to be able to say "no" when it makes sense. Thanks Again! Dana
Good Article and post Dharmesh!
I am a right brained artist type--My Fiancee is a left brained type who knows almost everything about time management and focus, she is an attorney she has to be. But here is a little strategy your blog readers may enjoy. She taught me many times over: at social gatherings, business meetings, the courthouse, conferences etc. etc. That, you have to project yourself and your business in a way that whom ever you meet, or who ever gets your business card, brochure, site-tweet ANYTHING--that you, your business, your career, are presented in a way that is crystal clear, all parts of your existence equation are all united in a highly focused manner so that when someone thinks they need to contact you for any reason, they automatically say no to themselves. They weed themselves out of the hazy mix that I find other people walk around with.(remember pigpen on Charlie Brown)--The ones that do contact you well, it is almost always a pleasure because they are in line with you! Not easy and always improving but a good strategy none the less. When I was a furniture manufacturer(custom line) I wouldn't get looki-loos, or whining buyers--only maybe a call a day with the question, when can they get their order placed? And the rest of all questions were already answered that were already in my equation to the world. Checks were already in my mailbox. My accounts payable success rate for "all paid up", was 100%. Not one bad paying client for over twenty years. Stay focused and listen to people who have had businesses --not newbies who want to write a book, get fame fast on this free internet world. But look for seasoned Pros .Hope this helps.
Good article keep em coming.
How you show up to the world is your responsibility.
I recently read Derek Siver's book and that "hell yeah" quote really stuck with me. It's too bad that the guilt of saying no never seems to go away... But that may be the life of an entrepreneur. We love pursuing new things!
Long ago and far away, in an era long before email (or even the electric typewriter) I once worked for the great literary critic Edmund Wilson, who had a famous card printed up:
"Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to: Read manuscripts, write articles or books to order, write forewords or introductions, make statements for publicity purposes, do any kind of editorial work, judge literary contests, give interviews, take part in writers' conferences, answer questionnaires, contribute to or take part in symposiums or 'panels' of any kind, contribute manuscripts for sales, autograph books, donate copies of his books to libraries, allow his name to be used on letterheads, supply personal information about himself, or supply opinions on literary or other subjects."
These postcards turned out to be very popular--people wrote to him just to get one. It took two assistants to keep up with the demand.
Dharmesh -- Excellent post, and excellently worded "response" to those that reach out to you. As with many others, I have the same problem of saying "yes" to too many things... and saying "yes" too much or to too many means you cannot fulfill your obligations, your family or health takes the lowest priority, and over time your own personal development gets the least amount of attention.
Thanks for sharing. - Anil
Thank you for sharing your issue with having to say NO. I am having the exact same issue right now and really hate having to say No to this wonderful person but I must stay the course I have set for myself. It's just not easy telling people you care about "No".
Thanks again! Terry
My wife and I both encountered the request overload. We designed a system which allowed us to respond to requests, provide value, and avoid getting overwhelmed.
Once a month, host an early morning breakfast for folks interested. Max 8.
When requests come in, direct them to that meeting. Some will select out based on difficulty. Some on hour. Committed people follow through.
There are also benefits to the group - they find like minded peers.
Hope this suggestion offers another tool to help continue to serve others and yourself!
I blew all the money from selling my first startup by saying yes to too many people.
My philosophy now is to allocate a certain portion of my time/money to giveaway, then allocate first on what excites me, then on a first come, first serve basis.
So far it's been working, but I'm not yet disciplined enough about it and still do say yes too often.
Excellent post to help people understand that when someone doesn't get back to you, or says no, you shouldn't necessarily feel insulted or rejected. Sometimes people just get busy and have other priorities.
Very valuable lesson here about focus on what's most important. I use to say "yes" to everyone thinking I was getting lots done but realized that in fact, I was getting nothing accomplished. Today, by default I say No and make Yes the exception. I get way more accomplished in the business (and at home as well).
Great article and great advice. I wrote a parable about this very thing - the dangers of NOT saying no. I titled it "Spinning Your Web." It is subtitled "A parable about being realistic, turning away opportunities, or getting squashed on the pavement."
It's a quick read and I think it complements your article nicely.
If interested, you may see it (it is a PDF) at:
All the best,
Great post. I think every entrepreneur faces this challenge. I follow the Pareto principle of 80/20 rule. Spend 80 percent of the time on 20 percent of activities that bring results. When I started my business, I made a commitment to have a harmonious lifestyle-To create abundance and prosperity in all areas of life-Physical/mental/Emotional/Spiritual/Social/Business/Financial/family/academic.
Hence before I commit to any project, I ask myself-If it is leading me towards my goal in one of these areas OR away from my goal.
Will the decision I make help me save time/energy/money OR drain my time/energy/money?
If the answer is Towards my goal AND save time/energy/money, then I commit myself to the project. I think before committing to others, committing to myself and keeping it up, keeps me more peaceful and enjoy the process of entrepreneurship.
Since I believe in the golden rule (and karma), I tithe a certain number of hours a month for 'pro bono' work and helping others. Might be a good model to try: first come, first seved.
You have managed to have your audience experience a deja-vu. While it's easy for me and most people to preach the concept of saying "no", it's not-so-proud revelation to be faltering while practicing the same!
Very well said - thanks for the post.
Saying "yes" is usually emotional and it gives nice feeling, while saying "no" is more rational and it relates to understanding your available capacity and resources (and can feel not so nice). By saying "yes" or "no" you also reject other alternative options you could take. Economists call this as opportunity cost. It can have as significant impact than the question you wanted to answer but often these opportunities are not instantly visible. You need to think what else could be done. This applies very well at personal level, in start up companies or in big companies. In small companies or during growth the focus should be clear and you should be cautions with all disturbing and resource consuming activities. They can destroy efficiency of your investment.
Great Dharmesh. Keep it up.
Right On, Brother! As a Content Producer & Editor, everyone I know on earth (and I happen to know a lot of people) ask me to "Just look over" "translate" "revise" their website, book, letters, videos...
I've yet to get to 'No' but will try.
And...speaking of brothers, mine (Prof of Entrepreneurship) has an automated response when you send an email listing an entire FAQ about reaching him, depending upon who you are (a student, a magazine, a consultant project, a PhD candidate, etc etc etc...
This is a great post and applies not only to start ups, but also to business in general. Heck, it applies to life in general!
My pet peeve, as someone who approaches VCs on behalf of clients all the time, isn't getting a "no", especially if it's a quick one. It's getting no response at all, especially after repeated inquiries. We are careful in only bringing reasonably credible companies to investors. Non-responders get taken off the list for future opportunities.
Good advice! I can identify with this post and am still learning to say no when I really don't have time. It's so easy to say yes but then get over-stressed and/or not really have the time for the things you said yes to.
The most valuable asset any "mentor", adviser, friend or family member can offer is there time. It's finite and it's value should never be taken for granted! Nice post...
I just read this in Jack Canfield's "The Success Principles
" book (pg 295):
"It's not against you; it's for me"
"You know, my saying no to you is not against you or what you are trying to do. It's a very worthy cause, but recently I realized I've been overcommitting myself outside my home. So even though I support what you're doing, the fact is I've made a commitment to spend more time with my family. It's not against you; it's for us."
Jack also recommends "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty
" by Manuel J. Smith, and "How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty
" by Patti Breitman and Connie Hatch.
Dharmesh, thanks for sharing these great Startup tips for us. I´am from Brazil and I like to study and share best business practices and methodology for Startups here, through my Twitter account and blog. Thanks, @neigrando
Sorry, but no, I don't have time to read your blog post. If you are reading this, you have too much time on your hands :-)
Just being facetious... I learnt a long time ago, "Don't Say YES
, When You Want to Say NO
", it's easier said!
Thanks everyone for your kind comments and supportive words.
I was worried that folks might take the article the wrong way. Super pleased that this wasn't the case.
A fellow coach taught me a while ago: saying YES to one thing is saying NO to another. No wonder I was frustrated about not feeling balanced or accomplishing my goals! This is such a helpful article.
You think it's hard saying "no" now? Just wait a few short years when those big eyes look up pleadingly and ask "Daddy, can I have...."
Learning to say no is not easy - but as a parent, you have to do it daily:
"No, you cannot play with the knife",
"No, it's time to go to bed"
But sometimes it is better to say "Yes":
"Yes, you can play with the knife, when you are grown up and work in a circus",
"Yes, you can play with your dolls, tomorrow morning after you get a good night sleep"
And perhaps even apply this to business:
"Yes, I would love to help you out. To make sure we make the best possible use of both or our time, you need to make sure you have done X, Y and Z, and have this information (P,Q,R) available, ad can answer these questions (A,B,C) and then I'll be able to help you out."
This puts the onus of taking action ahead of the free (or paid) advice.
I find that even people who are paying me for my time will often not take any action, and then wonder why they are still in the same place as before they hired me.
Great article. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick call to discuss it?
Excellent article, what I did to my clients was to set priority in order according to the plan that we made. Put them in mindmap schedule and follow them. Weekly meeting was good to discuss some deviation from it and how to adapt.
Great article Dharmesh. I well understand your plight. As an adviser and mentor, I suffer the same probelms you note and have no lack of folks asking for my time (for free) for to talk about their start ups. Problem is, as we both know, there is NEVER such a thing as a short phone call! You have to say no and it is really hard, especuially if you really care and want to help people.
As well, you mention some excellent information, including Guy Kawasaki's book which has invaluable index of people he cites. As well, I would recommend another older but very good book that gets to the core of one's mental focus and method and is excellent for start up types and most small and medium company owners in general. It is "The Magic of Thinking Big", by David J. Schwartz, PhD.
Lastly, the links to angellist.com and venturehacks do not work? May be a temporary issue, but thought I would let you know about the problem.
Best of Good Luck,
Bruce LaFramboise, AInstIB
Business Mentor, Coach, Adviser
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Great article. This applies to both external and internal distractions that get us off track. Often it occurs not as a result of someone requesting our time, but because we wander into something out of curiosity and fail to extricate ourselves before it's too late.
Wonderful article. Lots of my clients struggle with this exact problem. It is ok to say no, give yourself permission to say no, you can always say yes later. It is important to prioritize our to do list, schedule our days carefully to be sure to include time for family and loved ones. Kids grow up way too fast, believe me I know, I have one in college and one ready to leave.
I agree with what you're saying, however, I also see that many people who say they are too busy for everything, really do nothing to help grow their business. "Well, I can't go to the referral group meeting today because my friend is here from out of town." Oh, that meeting's tonight? I took out the steaks to cook on the grill already." And so on and so forth. Small businesses, especially the really small ones, seem to be afraid. If they don't try too hard, then when they fail, it's not really their fault. Stepping into the unknown is risky and if I'm not a risktaker, I'm not going to do it.
There has to be somewhere in there that makes the difference in too busy because YES you really have been working your tail off, and Nah, I'm not really that busy working ON my business -- I'll just stay working IN my business. And then when the company does not generate income, you can classify yourself as a hobbyist with the IRS.
Any suggestions for these people?
Awesome post. Being passionate about startups, I find it incredibly difficult to say no to wide-eyed entrepreneurs looking for feedback and direction.
Would be great if there was some way those of us reading could mark the few comments that are spam so that they could be easily dealt with.
Acknowledging you've got a problem is the first step to solving it. Let's acknowledge something else: the reason we all say 'yes' too often is not just because it feels 'nice'; it also feels 'good' because we've just been flattered for having some special ability to contribute to the other person's need.
That's great, say 'thank you for asking' and you'll have acknowledged that. Now take it further and acknowledge your own priorities: "Thank you for asking but I must say no; my schedule would not allow me to give you the time you need and I hope you'll find someone else to help with this." Want to learn another 100 tips like this one? http://timejunkiebook.com
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Hello Dharmesh Shah, WHO T.F. ARE YOU
To Tom Sexton -- one of the posters here, I can't agree with you more. By working on your business to the point where you're actually making an income, then you can find the time to rest and enjoy. But it is very important -- especially as a new startup that you work HARD, and say YES, to as many things as you can. Later, it will be time to say thank you, but no.