Learning to Say No

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The longer I work as a developer the trickier it is to know where to spend your time and on what. It becomes extra difficult when you throw a social life and family in the mix. I’m already incredibly anal about using time tracking, Trello, and coding techniques to stay on track and focused but how do you know that you’re spending your time on the right things? And furthermore, how do you tell people that you don’t want to work on their project without ruining a relationship?

##First things first - Where to Spend Time Time is incredibly fleeting. And here’s the thing, remember in grade school when you would stare at the clock and watch in pain as the second hand would barely move around the clockface? That doesn’t happen when you’re a big boy or big girl. The day literally screams by and half the stuff you committed to that day didn’t get done. Time is precious. Spend it wisely. Here are some things your should be doing.


This is incredibly important and I can’t stress this enough. More so I’m putting this here for myself. I wrote it down now and put it in the ether so it’s real.

I get grumpy when I don’t work out. I start eating like shit and becoming self deprecating and snarky. I would tell you to do the scientific method and work out for a long time then stop for a month and see if you become a serious dickhead (or whatever the female equivalent to dickhead is). But that’s a terrible idea. Do anything: jumping jacks, roll down a hill, run around flailing your arms like a crazy person, push up challenges, handstands, whatever. There are a ton of programs and tools out there to get your ass moving. Pick one and do it. Don’t like it? Pick another one and do that. You can literally pick something new every day and never run out of things to try.

Me Time

I know a lot of people say you should be working on your side project or start up instead of playing video games or blank where blank is anything else seemingly nonproductive. I think this is bullshit. Set aside one hour a day to do something fun that seems trivial. Play guitar, read a book, watch TV, shoot vulgar-mouthed 12 year olds in online video games (seriously though: what’s going to happen to these kids in 20 years). Your brain needs rest…and on that note

Get Some Sleep

More than 5 hours. All the caffeine in the world doesn’t make up for a well rested brain. Plus sometimes you fix bugs in your dreams. How cool is that?

Improve Relationships

This doesn’t mean hit Like/Heart buttons on social networks. It means face to face iteractions with people you care about. Don’t have anyone you care about? Send me a message. We can play a board game on Google Hangout.

Learning to Say No to Stuff

After working long enough you’ll start to realize that the things you should be doing start to be become very valuable to you. Time is finite. We can’t work on everything for everyone. If you’re a creative type of person that has skills in design, programming, writing or art chances are that someone close to you or a friend of a friend will ask you to work on something for them. Really think about this before committing. There can be undesirable consequences and you don’t want to damage a relationship because you overcommitted.

That said here are some guidelines I use when letting people down gently. It’s much better to say “No” early before finding out you bit off more than you can chew. If you commit and bail later then you’ve wasted your time AND their time which is much worse.

Be honest with them and yourself

If it’s not something you’re going to be passionate about working on then let them know. Don’t feel bad you don’t want to work on their project. They can find someone else to work on it. Tell them you don’t have the time if you’ve already committed to other projects. In my experience, overcommitting in order to help friends just give me anxiety and makes me less productive overall.

Be firm

Many times they will continue to sweeten the pot by offering a high rate, more equity, etc. There was a reason you got bubble guts when thinking about working on this project. Be firm.

Not special treatment for friends and family

If you’re related to the person or friends/acquaintances with them you may feel bad about not wanting to work with them on their project. This is understanable and I’ve been put in these situations as well. I would actually prefer to work with strangers on most occassions. You don’t want to let emotion or past experience cloud judgement. Worst of all you don’t want to lose a friend or have awkwardness with a family member of drama you had from working together.

Wrapping Up

Saying no to stuff is hard. Especially when you’re just starting out and trying to build up a portfolio of stuff to show off how awesome you are. If you’re spidey sense is tingling about a project pull the cord and get out of their. Life is too short to work on stuff you’re not passionate about or being guilted into working on something. Stand strong. There are plenty of interesting problems to solve and awesome things to make…when you’re ready.

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