How Saying No Allows Me To Do More

How Saying No Allows Me To Do More

The challenge in todays world is that almost anyone can be reached via email. You can either guess their email using a tool like Rapportive, or just find their public Facebook page and message them directly. In some ways, your inbox is filled with everyone else’s to-do lists.

Inspired by my friend Jame Altucher, I decided to write a post about how I say “No.”

In the past, I used to get anxious with processing these kinds of requests. I wanted to say yes to everyone because I felt so honored that they had reached out, but it really started to impact my work. That’s when I decided I needed to respect myself and the other person, by being quick to respond and saying no – if it wasn’t a fit.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of my “no” responses, let me apologize in advance. If you really needed me, or felt like your opportunity was great and I passed on it, I’m sorry. I don’t have a perfect filter, but I try hard to help everyone that I can.

I do have some “non-negotiables” for my replies:

  • I never lie
  • I always respond (as long as it doesn’t look like mass spam)
  • I always give a yes or a no

The other strategy I use is that I push everyone to my email. FB messages, SMS, or Twitter DM’s, all get a response asking them to follow up using my email. The reason is that I’m fast in email… I’m a hot-key-kind-of-guy, so I can process 100’s of emails per day. My responses are never long, heartfelt or well-written prose, but they’re always quick and provide a bit of context as to my decision.

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List of Circumstances & My Responses

Invest in a startup

Unfortunately, it’s not an opportunity that I feel I could add a lot of value to, so I’m going to pass.

Schedule a call

Appreciate the opportunity but unfortunately, I’m already committed, can we start with email? How can I help?

Take a meeting

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, scheduling a meeting is tough, let’s start with an email. How can I help?

Attend an event

Thanks for the opportunity, but I’m already committed that day. Appreciate the invite.

Read a long email

Thanks for reaching out, but unfortunately I won’t be able to process your full email. How can I help?

Build a new feature

Thanks for sharing, it’s really appreciated. I’ll be sure to share with the team.

Investors asking to meet

Thanks for reaching out but I’m heads down with Clarity right now. I’ll circle back once the dust settles.

Involvement in a new project

Thanks for thinking of me, but unfortunately I’m over-committed with Clarity + a growing family. I’m going to have to pass this time.

Now that I’ve shown you how I respond, feel free to borrow any examples from above. I know I run the risk of having people use my own responses on me when I reach out to them, but that’s all cool. If the opportunity wasn’t presented in the right light, then it’s on me to adjust for the next time.


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
~ Steve Jobs

Do you have any other tips for saying no or for getting more done in your email? Leave a comment below with your response.

  • luclevesque

    This is helpful… been struggling with exactly this lately. Bookmarked. Thanks.

    • Dan Martell


      Glad I could help. I’m always trying to “update” my approach so I can reduce the amount of false positives, but so far it seems to work.


  • Marc Albert

    There is only so much time in a day, and as an entrepreneur, you have to be effective in your own projects, and still giving back (cuz you don’t get where you are at by yourself). For me one of the big things I had to change was in the form of phone calls from family. My brother can talk my ear off for at least an hour and it’s near impossible to hang up, no matter what I say….he just doesn’t get that I’m busy. I used to feel like I HAD to pick up….what if it’s important. No more, I almost never pick up. If important, they can leave a message and I will call back when convenient to me. And I told them to SMS me instead. I can then do like Dan and just give a to-the-point honest short answer to whatever question they have.

    • Dan Martell

      Marc, music to my ears.

      It’s what Dr. Phil says (yes, I’m quoting Dr. Phil) – “You teach people how to treat you.”

      Most don’t want to admit to that… I live by it.


  • Darryl Hicks

    Love the practical copy/pasteable takeaways Dan. You might also find value in this one which I bookmarked and have used a few times.

    The thing I like most about Alexandra’s post above is the idea to propose a quick alternative with your no whenever possible, so that you’re still providing a bit of value.

    I struggle a lot with this one so the reminder is much appreciated!

    • Dan Martell

      Darryl, great link / thx for sharing… they’re way more thoughtful and elegant in their approach.

      I also believe that questions / responses should be captured online so you can respond with a link. In some ways blogging has helped me do that + some webinars I’ve hosted and recorded.

      I got the idea from James Clear:


  • Derek Ball

    Great post Dan! I’ve had to do a lot of this myself – and when I’ve asked how I can help, if I can’t, I’ve directed lots over to Clarity to find an expert who can. 🙂

  • Corey G

    I’m stealing all these, right now.

    • Dan Martell


  • taylorbarr

    YES. Such a valuable post. Taking for my macro responses:) Thank you sir!

    Handling Partnerships (half of my job) – I have learned to refine this a lot; It’s even shaped how I reach out to others in this regard (learning what I’d want to receive in the same scenario). Make it Quick, show immediate benefit to THE RECIPIENT in the first line and see how it goes. I hate when I get someone *pushing* products or my time to discuss something If I have a good idea it’s not going to work or not interested.

    Thanks again Dan!

    • Dan Martell

      There’s a real art to crafting an email that’s short, concise and will intrigue the person to move to the next stage.

      Too often people ask me for BIG asks in an initial contact. There’s a better approach:


      • taylorbarr

        🙂 Yes indeed. With you on that.

  • Eddie Rutanga

    I really like the involvement in a new project…thanks Dan!

    • Dan Martell

      I will say that adding the + growing family was kind of awesome … no one can get upset for you spending more time with the family. 🙂

  • Eden Spodek

    This is such a helpful post and I’m going to adapt some of your responses for my own use. Thanks!

    • Dan Martell

      Eden, glad you found them useful!


  • Patrick Albert

    Clear, consice and consistent in the way you’ve “framed” how to say no constructively…. Focusing on our “highest and best use” can be difficult. Quite helpful. Carpet Diem!

    • Dan Martell


      Great to hear from you Patrick!


  • Frederick Hann

    Hi Dan, “Yes” used to be my favorite word. A few years ago it changed to “NO”. Since making the change life has gotten a bit simpler! Sage comments; thanks for posting.

  • youloveclari

    This is absolutely great! I just recently learned to do this, and learning not to feel guilty about my decisions, so far the results have shown that doing this settles the ground for respect and open spaces for the right things to happen. Thank you

    • Nick Walter

      “learning not to feel guilty” How are you learning this? I need major help with this

      • youloveclari

        I have to wait for the results later on, that’s the only way not to feel guilty, because later on the people and things I said no to, 1. Showed me more respect 2. Better opportunities, so I just tell myself don’t feel bad, something good will come out of this. =)

        • Nick Walter

          Gotcha. Thanks 🙂

  • Soley Soucie

    Your timing is spot on for me. I was at a dinner event last week and someone said time is the new currency and we must all learn a way of spending it properly!

  • Dan Martell

    Mark, 100% … as much as customer choose people they buy/work with, companies/individuals should choose their customers accordingly.

    Nothing will kill a business faster then the wrong customer. (notice I didn’t say bad, just wrong).

    Great feedback, thanks for the comment.


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