Most of us live immersed in a culture that encourages us all to do more and rest less. I admit that I am one of those people who has been tempted into living a frantic and filled life. I am slowly becoming better at making time for selfcare, but I still drag myself through periods of restlessness for the sake of wanting to achieve more. As I talk with some of my friends, I realize that I am not the only person who is constantly on the run with the intention of creating a better life for myself and the people around me.
At the root of this chaotic lifestyle is the habit of saying “yes” too often. This can leave us with too many responsibilities, and too little time to fulfill them properly. Saying “no” to new opportunities and experiences can be very difficult, but it is a necessary step toward us living our best lives.
The difficulty in saying “no” can vary, depending on what we are being asked to do and when we are being asked to do it. For example, if someone asks you to sing the national anthem at an event, but you know you cannot sing and will never be able to sing in front of a crowd, then saying “no” to that request may be easy for you. Also, if someone asks you to volunteer with them at an event, but know you have something that you have already committed to you at that same time, saying “no” may not be very difficult.
The real difficulty can occur when we are asked to do something that we are really interested in and when we don’t have a clear sense of what priorities and commitments already exist in our life.
Keeping it Candid
I feel like I have been busy for most of my life. I go to school. I go to work. I go to church. I volunteer in the community. I fit in time for friends and family. These are things that I do on a consistent basis. On a less consistent basis, I try to fit in time to work out, do meal preps, and write blog posts. These things that I do less often are what I consider to be extremely important aspects of my health and happiness. When I realized that I wasn’t really prioritizing my health or happiness, I had to admit that I still have a lot of work to do in the “Just Say No,” department of my life.
I decided to write a post on this topic because this is the biggest problem that I currently struggle with. I am always flattered when people tell me that they are impressed with my ability to juggle so many different responsibilities, but what they don’t see is the internal battle that I have within myself every single day as I try to balance my different obligations. I hope that my candidness in this post will help at least one other person.
When I first acknowledged that I have a problem with not saying “no” enough to new opportunities and obligations, I had a simple solution in mind: Just start saying no! However, months went by where I was still allowing myself to say “yes” to things that I probably should have just said “no” to.
In order to really address my problem, I had to ask myself why I keep saying “yes” to things that take away from the time that I need for self-care. Growing up, I was not perfect, but most people viewed me as a successful young person. I was “on the right track,” but I still never felt exceptional.
Upon reflection, it became apparent to me that part of my current problem stems from my attempt to mask my feelings of inadequacy. I tried to mask those feelings by simply adding more things onto my plate to show the world that I could handle more than most people. That was overrated.
I was basically letting my fear of being perceived as unsuccessful or inadequate drive me toward accepting almost every single opportunity that came my way. Although I am, and always have been, genuinely interested in everything that I sign-up for, I have to constantly remind myself that if I do want to be exceptional and make a significant difference in my community, the best way for me to do so is to focus on just a few issues, as opposed to every issue.
Essential Steps on How to Say No
Here are a few steps that I now follow that I believe can help us all get better at saying “no” more often:
1. Write Down All of Your Commitments and Priorities
In order to know which opportunities you can say “yes” or “no” to, you must first know what your current obligations are. Whenever I commit to something, I like to write it down in my physical planner and insert it into my digital calendars. This way, I reinforce what all of my commitments are and avoid overextending myself. It is also a good practice to identity the commitments that are long term and short term, and make a note of how time-consuming each commitment is.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure to reserve time in your schedule for you to recover from your other obligations. You don’t want to forget about self-care and rest!
2. Write Down the Goals You Have for Yourself
Once you have written down all of your commitments and priorities, write down your goals. What do you want to achieve by the end of this year? Where do you want to be in life in 5 years? 10 years? Place these goals in a location that you can easily access on a daily basis. Having these goals and making time to reflect on them each month will allow you to stay focused and intentional with your actions.
3. Ask for Time to Provide a Response to New Opportunities or Responsibilities
When people provide you with the chance to accept a new opportunity, do not give a response immediately! Instead, ask the person if you can have a certain amount of time to get back to them with your decision. If they allow you time to consider taking on the new commitment, then you should move on to step 4, listed below.
However, there may be times when you will have to give an immediate response. For example, if an employer calls to schedule an interview with you, or if an employer calls to offer you a new position, they may require you to give them a response immediately. These instances may not occur too often, but if they do, you should be able to provide them with a response that works for you after you have followed steps 1 and 2, mentioned above.
4. Ask Yourself if the New Opportunity or Responsibility Aligns with Your Goals and Fits in Your Schedule
Now that you have a little bit of time to decide whether you should say “yes” or “no,” you must determine if the new opportunity aligns with your goals and your schedule. If you have your planner/calendar and goals stored in an easily accessible location, this step should not take longer than 5-10 minutes.
5. Remind Yourself That it is Okay to Say No. There is More to Come.
The reason why you are struggling to turn down new opportunities may be similar to my reason, or it may be different! When you figure out the root of your habit of saying “yes” too often, remind yourself that creating this new habit of saying “no” is not going to hurt you. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to make sure that you do not over exhaust yourself.
There are too many stories about professionals who didn’t make time for self-recovery or self-improvement, and they ended up running themselves into the ground. You do not want that for yourself. Your life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your success is measured by the quality of your work, not the quantity of your work. Allow yourself to miss out on a few things. That way, you will be better prepared to handle the next great chapter in your life.