“You got a Minute?” – How to say ‘no’

June 1st, 2016 by John Gallagher 2 Comments



How many times a day does someone come to you and ask “Do you have a minute?” Of course you say ‘yes’, right?  How many times does that minute actually last a minute?  Normally one turns into 5 or 10 AND you end up with another assignment.  Why can’t we say no?

  • “I don’t want to hurt the other’s feelings”
  • “I have an open door policy”
  • “It’s only a minute”
  • “What if it is important?”

I have heard all of these things and more as a coach.  One of these distractions a day isn’t bad.  Five to 10 times day can lead to significant lost time.  What are some ways to reduce or minimize these distractions without coming across as rude?

  1. Communicate ‘open hours’ – It seems a bit odd, but an open door policy does not mean 24/7.  You can actually schedule your hours.
  2. Close your door and use visual management to let your team know when you will be available.
  3. Say ‘no’, but with grace.  “I am sorry.  I do not have a minute right now.  However, I will be available at 4:00.  If this is not an emergency (there sometimes are emergencies), can we sit down then?  Please have my assistant schedule a time for us.” This response respects the person who came in AND it respects your time as well!

I know.  This is easier said than done, but if you want to improve your productivity, you will have to learn the skill of saying ‘no’ respectfully

What ways have you used to help reduced the “Do you have a minute?” distractions?

  • Michael Gallagher

    This is so helpful. I have a book called “What to say and when” and I look for this response pretty frequently. Hardest part is keeping door closed when you have a reputation of always being open.

    The goal then becomes, how do you change a typical pattern?

    Great blog posting. Thanks

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