No is an act of defiance. It’s rebellion against the myriad assaults on our freedom by endless commitments and their evil time-thieving overlords.
Before I sound any more like a straight-to-eBook lesbo-witch fantasy novel I’ll clear up what I mean. When commitments multiply, saying no is your last line of defence against things you feel obliged to do but simply waste time.
Yet it’s a pretty powerful defence.
Your relationship with no began as a toddler when you first discovered independence to the chagrin of your parents. “Pick those craps up!” they’d yell. “No!” came the reply as you jammed another stink-parcel behind the radiator, inundating the kitchen with an acrid stench of human ejecta and depriving yourself of Thomas the Tank Engine privileges. I was a free-thinker from an early age.
Refusal to comply with authority (especially the kind who believe they know what’s best for you but are subsequently revealed to be as flawed as the rest of us) is one of life’s great joys (and rights).
The stakes are a lot higher these days of course, but the word no remains as potent as ever. You have to deliver it both tactfully and prudently of course, but once uttered it can save you hours, days, even years of effort lost to pointless diversion.
Say no to inertia
Distractions like Facebook or looking at tits on Instagram suck focus out of your attention. In fact it’s proven that the modern world is bad for your health by real scientists and everything.
When you notice your procrastination behaviours you’ll realise just how much time they waste. After some diligent research of my own I noticed that my favourites are:
- Closing all the open app windows I’m not using on my Mac
- Cruising the fridge
- Standing in front of a radiator
- Tinkering with Linux
- Writing articles about procrastination behaviours
- Tidying my studio
- Having luxury wees and reading the Viz or DIY catalogues
These are all bullshit diversions to avoid getting on with more important jobs like client work or personal projects. And when you catch yourself doing them and say no, it feels brilliant.
Say no to bad moods
I woke up in a shitty mood this morning and my defiance to accepting what would normally disintegrate into a shit day has turned it into a good one. A good day means ticking things off my to-do list and basking in the relaxation of having done them.
This shouldn’t come as a revelation but you’re in control of how you feel. But you must devote time to deciding how you want to feel, then believing you do. And with repetition it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This isn’t cosmic ordering bullshit, it’s just taking charge of your mind and saying no to events of the day which everyone else surrenders control of their moods to.
Say no to shit work
You’re not obliged to accept every job that comes your way, perhaps with the exception of the first year or two (as explored in Famines and feasts chapter of The Human Freelancer book. Thereafter it’s about choosing the most interesting projects which teach you something new, test your abilities or give you that warm fuzzy feeling of helping another human being out of a tight spot.
Say no to commitments and blame entropy
In my crooked perception of the universe, when something manifests as reality it rapidly becomes permanent and unchanging. Like when an appointment lands in your calendar or you say yes to doing something.
Fortunately that same universe has another trick up its sleeve called entropy and that means everything has a tendency to change or at the very least be far from permanent or certain. You can rely on this chaos and disorder to make circumstances change – that means it’s sometimes better, indeed fairer, on yourself and others if you cancel something, defer or renege on a commitment.
I’m one of those people who hates to let others down because it reflects badly but sometimes its actually for the best. And as it turns out, clients don’t really mind when you say no (with genuine cause) because people do it all the time. No one thinks you’re terrible, simply rearrange and everyone moves on.
Say no to a shit lifestyle
If you’ve already sifted through my vengeful diatribes you’ll know what an emphatic cheerleader I am for salary-enslaved consumerism and a life of greed, jealousy and unhappiness in corporate employment.
Suffice to say by being a human freelancer you’re sticking two fingers up at the man already, just by virtue of getting up in the morning (for lazy anal and a mid-morning pancake).
If your rebellion needs reinforcements, you could ear worm yourself with Grange Hill’s anthemic pop song of the same title while you’re going through your to-do list. You could even turn it into a little game guessing how many of the spotty, mulleted little grebes in this music video were fingered by Jimmy Saville during the after-party.
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Self-help business books perpetuate the myth that success is relentless growth and more of everything means progress. They preach about bookkeeping and market research: things you might need to do of course. But let’s face it they’re fucking boring.
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