Use your enthusiasm for your projects to soften rejection.
Part of working smarter and not harder is maintaining focus on your priorities. Often, when you are driven to meet personal or professional goals, you'll find that you put a real premium on your time that others may have a hard time understanding. As you become more focused on the pursuit of your goals, you may feel increasingly protective of your time.
For others, it can be hard to understand a person who is focused and driven. Focus requires you decline a lot of offers which would otherwise eat into your productivity. Sometimes people on the outside of your goals may perceive your unwillingness to take time off, start new projects, or join them in other pursuits as personal rejection. After all, how many times does someone have to tell you "no" before you begin to get the hint they don't want to spend time with you?
If you don't qualify why you're declining an invitation or business partnership, you're missing out on a great opportunity to 1) explain why you're so driven, and 2) share your enthusiasm for your passions and goals with others. The next time you ditch out on an invitation, let people know what, exactly, is consuming your energy and focus.
Compare these two styles of saying "no.":
"Sorry, I'm too busy right now. Don't take it personally. I'm just slammed."
"You know, I'd love to, but I'm really driven right now to complete this project I'm working on. [Describe the project, be it a special listing presentation, new marketing plan, or other goal.] How about another time? Don't count me out for good, but count me out for right now."
People are inspired by people who are passionate about their goals. When they see others engaged, excited, and driven, the response is more likely to be respect and admiration than personal disappointment.
For an extension on this idea, check out this great article, "Ways to Say No" from Celestine Chua's guest post at ZenHabits.net:
Ways to say no: