Here’s a big productivity-killer: All the daily demands from your friends, family and colleagues.

Your spouse wants to go to dinner tonight. Your child wants you to drop what you’re doing and help her build a tree house right now. Your friend wants you to run for the city council. And your colleagues are always looking for help on something.

You’re a good person – you like to help out. So you often say yes to these sorts of requests…right?

The problem is, pretty soon everyone else’s projects are eating into your time.

I mean you don’t mind helping others out – but when it gets to the point that you can’t get your to do lists done, then it becomes a problem.

Here’s how to start reclaiming your time…

* Start saying no. Just because you start saying no doesn’t mean you need to say no to everything. It just means that you realize some things are more important than others – and that you simply cannot do it all.

* Prioritize requests. The demands on your time are going to come in fast and furiously (as usual). So you need to start deciding which requests you want to accommodate and which ones you’ll need to politely decline.

For example, you may not want to break your child’s heart when she asks you to build a tree house, so family requests will be given high priority.

But perhaps requests from colleagues (especially those requests that are favors that are rarely returned) can be given lower priority.

* Delegate whenever possible. Sometimes you don’t want to say no… but you have to because you’re simply too pressed for time. In that case, consider freeing up your time by delegating some of your other tasks.

* Stop feeling guilty. This is an important step – you need to stop feeling guilty when you say no. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes friends, family and colleagues will deliberately give you a guilt trip when you say no.

They may even be keeping score, so they can point out that they helped you last time…or they might even point out that you helped someone else, so why not them?

If someone is trying to make you feel guilty, that’s just another reason to say no.

After all, who wants to do a favor for a bully?

Saying “no” takes practice – especially when you’re saying it to the people you’re close to.  Just tell them that “no” doesn’t mean no to every request forever. It just means “no” to this particular request… and tomorrow is another day.