If you want to take control of your time and become more productive, you must master saying no. When you don’t say no, you get sucked into everyone else’s priorities, distracted, and your sales day and productivity is disrupted.

It’s 8 a.m. You get to your desk ready to have a productive sales day. Your coffee’s hot. You just finished writing out and prioritizing the eight tasks on your to-do list for the day.

You’re ready to go.

You open your email to see if there’s anything you need to respond to immediately. There’s a meeting invite from your boss to three colleagues and you to discuss a project that you know about, but aren’t very involved in. You click accept—there’s an hour you weren’t expecting to lose today.

You start working on your top priority for the day. Then your colleague arrives and asks how your weekend was. Thirty minutes later, after the disruption, you get back to the task.

But first you need to check your email again. This time a colleague asks a quick question. You decide to take the five minutes and respond. Another distraction.

While the actual details may be different—instead of checking email maybe you’re on Slack, reading text messages, or maybe it’s a phone call that interrupts you, not a co-worker—this is not an uncommon flow for how most people start (and continue) their work day.

With constant distractions, you’ve lost control of your sales day.

This happens all the time to even the best-intentioned sales professionals.

4 Tips to Say No to Distractions that Disrupt Your Day

If you want to take control of your time and increase sales productivity, you must master saying no. When you don’t say no, you get sucked into everyone else’s priorities and you’re left with no time for your own.

Here are four tips for saying no.

  1. Prune your priorities

    Many people have too many priorities. If you have 12 priorities, you have none. On top of that, people often don’t have the right priorities. Test your priorities.

    Ask yourself if you’re truly gung-ho about a priority. If you’re not, if your passion and belief in it is not at the peak, don’t do it. Tell yourself, “If it’s not gung-ho, it’s no.”

    When I look at peoples’ priorities, I’ll often push back and ask why these priorities are important. As we go through the list, we debate whether it’s truly a priority. By the time we’re done, there’s typically about half the priorities left and they have twice the time to work on them. Say no to priorities that are not priority priorities.

  2. Turn down the noise

    There’s so much noise being thrown at us all day long. Everyone seems to be vying for our time.

    1. Can you come to this meeting for an hour? Accept.
    2. Can I ask you a quick question? Sure, come on in.
    3. I’d really like to pick your brain on an idea that’s been floating around in my head. Ok, I’m ready to be your sounding board.

You need to be able to say no to the noise. For meeting requests, respond and ask what the agenda is and how you can be helpful at the meeting. Maybe they just need you to report for a few minutes on how XYZ is going. Great. Then ask if you can come by for five minutes at the appropriate time to make that report. Fifty-five minutes saved.

Getting interrupted with a question? Respond with, “Actually, I’m concentrating right now. Can you come back at four o’clock when I’m packing up?”

Someone wants to pick your brain? Ask if you can call them on your walk home.

Don’t allow your day to be taken over by all the noise. Say no to the noise.

  1. Keep a To-Don’t

    We all know what we want to do, but what about what we’re not going to do? It’s emotionally freeing to know that you’re not getting to this task or that and it’s okay.

    Make a To-Don’t. Consciously put items on it. Just because something is on your no list today doesn’t mean it will be there forever. In fact, a no list is a great place to keep your ideas. When you add it to the no list, you’re just saying that you’re not focusing on it right now.

  2. Say no to your bad work habits

    Focusing on email early and often, immediately responding to cell phone notifications, multi-tasking, etc. are all bad work habits that can kill your productivity. You need to say no to yourself to stop doing them.

    It can be as simple as noticing your distractions and habits and stopping yourself. When you go to open your email, stop. Reaching for your phone? Stop. Opening a web browser to start another project while in the middle of another one? Stop.

    Say no to the habits that are distracting you.

Tips for Saying No to Bosses, Employees, and Even Clients

There are certain people who are particularly hard to say no to. If a boss asks you for a meeting or to produce a report, won’t saying no hurt your performance rating? Aren’t you expected to do what you’re told?

How about when you’re the boss? If you say no to your employees won’t you seem inaccessible like you don’t care.

What about your clients or potential clients? You can’t say no to them, can you?

  • Boss:

    Sometimes you can’t just say no to your boss. However, there are many times when you can and simply don’t. If your boss asks you to do something and it conflicts with another important task you’re working on, talk to them about it. Share your priority list with your boss. Help them to understand that if you do this for them now, you won’t be getting to the other priorities.

  • Employees:

    You want to be responsive to your employees, but don’t take on their work for them. If they’re facing a challenge, ask them to find a time to talk you through the problem. Then let them take it back and see how far they can get with it. Don’t let it transfer to your plate.

    Remember that you don’t need to respond right away. Sometimes by simply letting a few hours pass before you respond to a request, your employee may have figured it out on their own in the meantime.

  • Potential client:

    It’s hard to say no to potential clients. But what about the ones you know are not a good fit? Often, it takes just as much energy and effort to close a $5,000 deal as it does a $500,000 one. Focus your energy and effort on the latter and say no to the former when it’s warranted.

Saying no is difficult. It’s emotional. But it’s necessary if you want to take back control of your day and get the most done.

About the author


Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of…

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