Say “No” Like Your Life Depends on It

Here’s why it does…

Zed Bee
5 min readJun 23, 2021


Photo by Monstera from Pexels

I’ve not read Atomic Habits, ironically a daily reading habit is something I’m still trying to cultivate. However, I am subscribed to James Clear’s newsletter which delivers bitesize pieces of wisdom to my inbox every week.

Time debt

One week, I came across an idea in one of the newsletters that I thought was incredibly enlightening.

James wrote:

“Saying no saves you time in the future. Saying yes costs you time in the future.

No is like a time credit. You can spend that block of time in the future.

Yes is like a time debt. You have to repay that commitment at some point.

No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.”

In his words, a NO is freeing, it relieves you of eventual responsibility. When we say NO, we protect the time we have which allows us to spend it on priorities that we actually value.

Saying NO is a struggle for people who are chronic “yes men” or “yes women”. I’ve been there and even now I still find it difficult to say NO.

Many of us have to learn how to say NO because our default is usually YES.

We say YES because it’s easier. It’s the path of least resistance. We’ve learned over time that to avoid conflict or confrontation we should be agreeable because a YES can sidestep all of that.

But every action has a reaction.

When we say YES unwillingly to appease someone or a situation, we’re shorting ourselves. We give a bit of ourselves, our time, effort, whatever it is, to something or someone else.

A YES is binding. It’s a “debt”.

Think about situations where you’re more likely to say YES when you’d rather be saying NO. It could be at work or within the many different relationships you have at home or in social settings. Unless we have a strong sense of self it can be even harder to say no in relationships where the power dynamic is not in our favor. For example, it might be easier to say NO to a colleague who works on the same level but not with your line manager. A YES at work can easily translate into pulling extra hours and…



Zed Bee

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