Learn How to Say ‘NO’ From The Best
Email templates from Naval Ravikant, Tim Ferriss, Paul Graham and James Clear.
“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” Steve Jobs
From a young age, we are taught to take others’ needs into consideration before our own. How does this translate into adult life? Well, we end up saying ‘yes’ more than we probably should.
Are you able to meet up for a coffee to discuss my new business idea? Yes.
Are you free to work on this project over the next 4 weeks? Yes.
Can you review this 200-page document? Yes.
To help you get back some of your time, I have compiled templates from four well-known influencers that believe in the power of ‘no’.
Naval Ravikant - Entrepreneur, Investor and Co-Founder of AngelList
When Naval speaks, you should listen. He has been featured on countless podcasts discussing topics such as happiness, investing, wealth, decision making and habits. He drops knowledge like no one else I have come across and is a strong advocate of valuing your own time.
“Meetings should really be phone calls, phone call should be emails, and phone calls should just be texts“ Naval Ratikant
Template: How to say ‘no’ to a meeting
Hey [Their Name],
Just want to be upfront.
I don’t do non-transactional meetings. I don’t do meetings without a strict agenda. I don’t do meetings unless we absolutely have to.
Tim Ferriss — Entrepreneur, Author, and Host of The Tim Ferriss Show Podcast
Tim Ferriss is the reason I left a successful consulting job to join a startup. My inspiration at the time came from his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. In this book, Tim Ferriss highlights the importance of asking yourself logical questions that essentially act as the antidote to the fear being experienced. Given his profile, he gets inundated with requests on a daily basis and has to say ‘no’ more than the average person.
Template: Saying ‘no’ on principle
[Their Name], thanks so much for reaching out and apologies for my delayed response.
I have been trying to do too much of late, which makes it hard to keep up with correspondence. I also have to admit I am not good at saying no, because I enjoy meeting people and discussing new ideas. Unfortunately, the truth is that I am maxed out and need to take a step back.
Over the next few months, I will not be taking any new calls or meetings outside of my existing commitments to my business, family and myself. This will give me the energy and time I need to complete some big projects (such as finishing my second book) and be more successful in reaching my most important goals.
This is my blanket policy until I am caught up.
Thanks in advance for your understanding.
Paul Graham — Entrepreneur, Venture Capitalist and Author
I first came across Paul Graham when I read the fascinating email exchange he had with another VC about investing in Airbnb in 2009. He has a proven track record as a VC and has to swiftly manage the requests for his time. He takes a proactive approach and limits the requests he receives by saying ‘no’ from the outset on his website.
Template: How to proactively say ‘no’
Is your question a Frequently Asked Question?
Unfortunately, I now get so much mail that I can’t promise to respond to everyone. I know this seems obnoxious, but I notice I have emails in my inbox that are two years old. I’m probably never going to respond to them, and I may as well admit it.
I respond faster to emails that are short. Two-liners I often reply to immediately. Long emails I leave in my inbox to deal with later and never do.
My email address is my first and last initial at Y Combinator.
James Clear — Best Selling Author of Atomic Habits
If you are not already subscribed to James Clear’s weekly newsletter, I highly recommend you do so. Given the success of his book, he receives countless requests. He believes in making good decisions and avoiding bad ones — a big way to do that is to be able to say ‘no’.
Template: How to say ‘no’ to an interview
Hi [Their Name],
First, thank you so much for thinking of me for this opportunity! Unfortunately, my calendar is completely full right now so I’m not going to be able to do this.
I can offer my work as an alternative. You are welcome to share quotes from Atomic Habits or my articles with your audience. I know this isn’t quite what you were hoping for, but I’d like to think that his work will be useful to your audience all the same.
I’m sorry I don’t have better news. Thank you for understanding and we wish you continued success.
It is easy to say ‘yes’, but by doing so you are limiting your options. As James Clear points out,
“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. No is a choice. Yes is a responsibility.”
We have finite time and need to use it effectively. The more we say ‘yes’ the less time we have to work with. Shane Parish, the host of The Knowledge Project, was on the money when he said that “the most powerful productivity tool ever invented is simply the word no”. These templates should serve as inspiration next time you are looking at rejecting requests for your time.