The Power of Saying No to Low Priorities to Reclaim Your Time and Energy

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 10 months ago

Dr Demartini’s explains why, if you’d love to learn to say “no”, it starts with identifying and setting your priorities.


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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 10 months ago

In all likelihood, you’ve had times in your life when you’ve felt overwhelmed and overburdened by people's expectations, demands, and requests.

Many people find the act of saying “no” to be quite challenging, especially when it comes to saying “no” to people you admire or put on a pedestal.

For example, you may look up to or admire them for their intellectual capacities, business achievements, wealth, stability in relationships, social influence, physical beauty, fitness or spiritual awareness. In doing so, you exaggerate them and minimize yourself in return.

Anytime you minimize yourself relative to somebody else, you tend to altruistically sacrifice your time, energy, and resources to them because you're exaggerating and prioritizing them and minimizing and deprioritizing yourself.

You may also fear that you’ll lose them because people mostly fear the loss of and hold onto that which you infatuate with or admire.

In other words, when you infatuate with people and put people on pedestals, it tends to become harder to say “no” to them.

When you resent people and place them in pits, it tends to become easier to say “no” to them.

There's an art to saying no, and the core of it lies in prioritization.

You may believe that saying “no” centers around protecting yourself and your time, but mastering the true art of saying “no” lies in identifying and managing your highest priorities.

Why? Because when you fill your day with high-priority tasks, it's much easier to say “no” to distractions and requests that don't align with those priorities.

Let’s take a step back. Everyone, including you, has a set of values and priorities in life: actions that are most to least important.

1. When you do the highest priority actions, your self-worth tends to go up.

2. When you do the lower priority actions, your self-worth tends to go down.

Think about a day at work, for example. If you had a list of high-priority tasks for the day and were so focused that you checked off the entire list, you likely ended the day feeling on top of the world.

However, if you had a day spent putting out fires, sitting in meetings that weren’t valuable, and dealing with constant interruptions, emails and phone calls, you likely ended the day feeling burnt out and frustrated because you didn’t do what was most important to you.

In other words, if you don't decide and set your mind on what is truly a priority, it's easy to be vulnerable to distractions from other people.

Any area of your life that you're not empowering and growing your self-worth in, you're likely being overpowered and eroding your self-worth in. So it's up to you to take command of what you’ve identified as being the highest priority in your life.

To sum up so far:

If you don't set your priorities, other people will set them for you, and your life will likely be vulnerable to distractions.

When you spend time on lower-priority tasks, your self-worth tends to go down. Conversely, when you do high-priority tasks, your self-worth tends to go up.

One of the most powerful ways to say “no” to distractions on the outside is to fill your day with high-priority tasks.

Then, when someone asks you to do something and you have a full agenda, it's easier to decline politely and say, "Thank you, but no thank you. I'm super busy with my very high-priority tasks." But if you have nothing on your plate, it's much harder to say “no”.

In my experience, people constantly try to project their highest values onto others, so if you don't let them know what your priorities are, they'll likely keep making requests that may not necessarily align with your highest values.

If you’ve had a request that isn’t congruent with your highest values and priorities, an effective way to turn them down is by saying, “Thank you but no thank you. I have a very full plate at the moment of actions that are very high on my list of priorities. I won’t be taking anything else on right now.”

Or, “Thank you but no thank you, that’s not really in line with what I value most but I appreciate you asking.”

When saying “no” to people, I sometimes provide them with a benefit or win, for example, explaining that if I took on the task, I would not be able to complete their request with the level of quality it deserves.

This makes the “no” less abrupt and more receptive to the other party.

However, if it’s evident that the request does not resonate with my priorities, I would just say so.

In my work, I get offered many opportunities, but I consider whether they match my hierarchy of values or primary mission statement. If I cannot see how it would help me fulfill what is most meaningful to me, I decline it.

Take control of your calendar and agenda

As I mentioned earlier, it’s easier to say “thank you, but no thank you” when your calendar is filled with your high-priority actions.

The other night, I was asked to go to dinner, and I replied, "I'll check my schedule. I'd love to meet you for dinner, but I have an incredibly busy week. Let me get back to you."

Later, I checked my schedule and found that I had a window between 7:00 PM and 8:45 PM before my 9:00 PM podcast.

I took charge and told them about the time I had available, and they rearranged their schedule to fit mine.

When you prioritize your schedule, you'll earn respect and others will be more willing to adjust their plans to suit you, rather than expecting you to change your schedule for them.

Saying “yes” can also involve changing your mind and saying “no” to some action you may have previously said “yes” to if an even greater opportunity comes around.

In other words, if an incredible opportunity comes along that is even more congruent with your current highest values and helps you fulfill your mission even more, you may choose to change your schedule for the new opportunity and reschedule the previously agreed to one.

This may entail saying “no” to other things that now aren’t as high a priority to you as you perceived them to be, and it is wise to be adaptable and willing to respectfully make those adjustments according to your most current list of priorities.

Saying “yes” or “no” depends on your priorities, so it’s wise to fill your day with high priorities and be able to say “yes” or “no” equally.

Otherwise, you may miss out on greater opportunities or get trapped by previous commitments.

If you choose to change your plans, attempt to give them a win out of it so they can understand why you changed your mind and then said “no”. 

I often speak about caring enough about others to try and find a fair exchange, because that’s what keeps relationships in life and business going.

To say no, it is wise to first know what you're saying yes to.

Knowing what you’re saying yes to involves first DEFINING your highest priorities and then STICKING to them.

When you do that, you'll find it much easier to say “no” to distractions and requests that aren’t congruent with your highest values and priorities.

And when you do say “yes”, you'll tend to do so with intention and purpose, knowing that you're spending your valuable time on what's most meaningful to you.

In my 2-day Breakthrough Experience program that I teach online most every week, I teach you how to determine your highest values, prioritize your life, and how to delegate low-priority tasks.

In this way, you are more empowered to focus on that which is most meaningful and productive, and that also raises your self-worth and makes a contribution.

You’re also more likely to say “no” in a way that builds respect for yourself and where others respect you, instead of saying “yes” to things that are low on your values and devaluing yourself as a result.

In the Breakthrough Experience, I also teach a process called the Demartini Method – a set of questions that helps you dissolve infatuations and resentments and balance your perceptions and thereby dissolve your polarized emotions, which keeps you on track with your highest priorities.

As I mentioned earlier, infatuations makes it easier to say “yes” to low-priority tasks, while resentments make it easier to say “no”.

By leveling the playing field, you can be more authentic and objective, and make affirmative and confident decisions that respect both other peoples’ highest values and your own.

Authenticity is something I address in the Breakthrough Experience seminar where I teach people how to be authentic and to be able to say “yes” or “no” equally allowing them to be freed up to focus on their own authentic highest values.

It is easier to say “no” if you’re playing out your narcissistic persona, and easier to say “yes” if you’re playing out your altruistic persona.

However, it is possible to be objective and diplomatically say “no” in a respectful manner, which is why it is wise to reply with “thank you but no thank you” when something does not align with your highest values and priorities.

When people contact me with opportunities that do not align with my mission, I say “no” politely.

There is a guy who contacts me every few months with an opportunity that I am not interested in. I have met with him before and chatted with him, but his hidden agenda does not appeal to me.

So, I say “thank you, but no thank you.”

I am focused and clear about my mission, and able to say “no” in a respectful yet certain manner that mostly helps to prevent from alienating others.

In conclusion, if you would love to discover the power of “no” and setting priorities to reclaim your time and energy, it is wise to prioritize your life and time so you can say “no” or “yes” equally.

High-priority people tend to demand respect, so if you’re inspired to grow your influence and leadership, it is wise to take control of your life and prioritize it.

I would also love to have you attend my next Breakthrough Experience seminar so I can help you identify your highest values, prioritize your life, and then show you how to organize your life around your highest values, purpose, and mission.

This will help you do what you love, love what you do, and tap dance to work, as Warren Buffett says.

If you’d love to boost your self-worth, confidence, impact, and income then I would love to help you do that.

To Sum Up:

  1. In life, people often feel overwhelmed by other people's expectations and requests. However, it's possible to say "no" without feeling guilty, especially when you prioritize your day with high-priority tasks.
  2. If you don't take command of your life by setting priorities, other people will likely set them for you, and you'll tend to be vulnerable to distractions.
  3. Defining your priorities and sticking to them will help you say "no" to distractions and requests that don't align with your highest values. It's essential to know what you're saying "yes" and “No” to so that you can be intentional and purposeful with your time.
  4. When saying "no" to people, it's wise to do so diplomatically and respectfully, giving a reason that will benefit them.
  5. It's possible to be authentic and objective in your decision-making, even in difficult situations.
  6. By taking charge of your schedule, you'll earn respect and be able to adjust plans to suit you.
  7. I believe that the most effective way to say "no" is to first define your priorities, then prioritize your day and fill it with high-priority tasks, be diplomatic and respectful when saying “no”, be authentic and objective by asking quality questions such as those in the Demartini Method, and take charge of your schedule.

By following these guidelines, you can set clear boundaries to help you reclaim your time and energy, and master your life.


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