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Learning to Say No to the Commitment Time Bandit

Oftentimes the Time Bandits can come from outside our practices. What I call the Commitment Time Bandit is the one that approaches you to take on a roll in an organization, whether it is leadership or just heading up a particular project. You need to consider these requests carefully, as they can carry a hefty opportunity cost in terms of your time.

How They Come At You

This time bandit can be very hard to fend off. They want you to do something for them (or their organization) and, no matter the size of the commitment, it will steal your time. Maybe it’s running a fundraiser for the Rotary or Lion’s Club or coaching your son’s soccer team. It is often something that, at some level, you do want to do. However, as time is finite, whatever time it takes from you has an “opportunity cost.” If you do that thing, you will not be able to do something else with that time.

How You Can Deal with Them

My friend Dave Frees, a lawyer, entrepreneur, and business coach, has a way of dealing with these time bandits. He provides a simple test to gauge your answer. In short, “If it isn’t a hell yeah, it’s a no.” Is it something you’ve always wanted to do? Something that, when asked to do it, you want to just jump up and kiss the person that asked you? Will it not take time away from something else that is more in alignment with your purpose, goals, or mission? If so, then yes, do it. It’s a good use of your time. If not, just say no.

But be nice about it. Remember, it’s “Hell yeah,” not “Hell no!” Dave typically says to the person,

“Thank you for asking me! I am honored that you thought I would be the perfect person to do this. However, with the projects I am currently committed to, I would not have the time that would be sufficient to do the quality job we would both want me to do, and I would ultimately be doing you a disservice by saying yes. For that reason, I must say no.”

In this way you are not turning them down, you are trying to help them by saying that you are not the right person for the job.

The Power of “No”

The important take-away here is that it is not only okay to say no, it is encouraged. Since time is finite, you cannot say “Yes” to everything, so saying “No” becomes a necessity. It can be hard to do, because the ask may be something that intrigues you and be something that you really want to do. But you need to ask yourself, is it more important than what you are already doing or than other offers that you have received? Is it a “Hell Yeah”?

Help Battling the Time Bandits

You are never going to gain control of your practice, be more effective, and more profitable, if you don’t have dominion over your time. You control it; no one else. Get more information on how to regain control of your time by downloading my free book, The Ulitimate Guide to Taking Back Your Time.

Want great business and professional practice tips in your inbox every week? Then subscribe to my newsletter

How about more personalized assistance? Then click on this link to schedule a call with me. We can discuss your situation and then set up a free one hour coaching call.

Finally, for more comprehensive information on how to transform your solo practice, you can also get a copy of my bookGetting Off the Hamster Wheel.


Steven J. Richardson

Comment (1)

  1. Get More Time Back by Following the Tom Hanks Rule – Richardson Consulting Group
    May 1, 2023

    […] As solo attorneys we always find ourselves overloaded with work and struggling to find a good work/life balance. We can’t seem to get off the hamster wheel of our practices. In good part this is because we have a hard time saying No to things; but we have to. […]

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