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How Saying No Allows Me To Do More

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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.

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