Do you ever feel like you have 48 hours worth of to-dos in your 24 hour days? It seems to be a feeling that is becoming more and more common. Maybe it is a result of more people juggling multiple jobs and side hustles, maybe it is an increasing cultural (and unrealistic) expectation that we should do and be all the things to everyone! Whatever the reason, today I want to talk about the benefits of saying “no” and share how getting comfortable saying “no” has helped me better balance my job, blogging, relationships and life in general.
“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs
What Saying No Looks Like
Saying “yes” is a hard habit to break, and when I first realized I had a problem, I was not sure how to say “no” without being perceived as rude. I was worried that I would no longer think of me as a “nice” person. So, if you are a people-pleaser like me and you’re unsure how to communicate no, here are a few suggestions that worked for me:
“I appreciate you thinking of me for that opportunity but I have a conflict.”
“That sounds fun, but I won’t be able to make it.”
“Sorry, I can’t.”
Of course, our actions can communicate a “yes” or “no” as well. More often than not, I communicate with my actions. I have also learned that saying no to something right now doesn’t have to mean saying no forever. “Not right now,” or texting someone “Can I circle back with you tomorrow?” can be more gentle forms of “no,” and I leaned into them when I was first getting comfortable saying “no”.
The Benefits of Saying “No”
One of the first times I realized I had a problem saying no was in a previous job. Despite my communications position, I was roped into doing work that was way out of my league and expertise. My boss essentially wanted me to manage the IT support — not at all related to what I was hired to do. In hindsight, this was a direct result of my dirty habit of saying “yes” to every to-do that came my way. My boss and colleagues knew I would always say “yes”. They knew I would grin and bear it, even if it would totally stress me out.
There were many other situations, too, where I was asked to do the task that no one else wanted to do. It left me feeling like I was being taken advantage of, but the truth is that at the time I was too afraid or say “no.” I didn’t know how to break the habit and I didn’t want to let people down.
So, when I started saying “no” I didn’t have a choice. I had to establish boundaries. My boundaries today, revolve around what I consider a block schedule. I’m definitely not perfect, but I try hard each day to set aside specific time windows for work, family and friends and personal time. There are additional boundaries of course, but they stem from those three priorities.
Understanding my Top Priorities
Saying “no” has given me the opportunity to better prioritize my time — because when you say no to one thing you can then say yes to another. When I was in a habit of saying “yes” to everything that came up, I was operating more like someone playing whack-a-mole and less like someone with a schedule or plan for the day. But, when you start saying “no” you inadvertently become more conscious of what you are saying “yes” to and you figure out what your true priorities are.
A few weeks ago, I had three happy hour invites in one week. In the past, I would have said “yes” to each. But instead, I thought about my priorities and realized I needed to say no. I hadn’t worked out in a few days, and I was craving time with Will who was getting home from his week-long work trip.
For me my three priorities are work, family and friends and personal time. The personal bucket includes workout time, blogging, self care and/or doing something fun just for myself. Since I spend most of my time working during the week days, I try to completely cut work out of the picture over the weekends and maintain time with family and friends and personal time as top priorities.
Giving Others Time to Shine
When I was in a habit of saying yes to everything, I often would tell myself, “Well if I don’t do it, who will?!” or “No one else knows how to do this….” I often felt responsible to do more than my share. In work specifically, I had to learn the art of asking for help and sharing “to-dos” with other people. I have realized that my “no’s” can open doors for other people to shine and grow. I can actually come across as more of a team-player in the long run.
So there you have it. Now, the truth is I’m still getting comfortable with saying “no”. I think of it as a habit that takes process, and some situations are easier than others. These benefits are just as much a reminder to myself as they are something that I hope others can find encouragement in.
And for those of you who don’t have a problem saying “no”, I hope this gives you some insight as to what it is like for the people in your life who only say “yes”.
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If you have a habit of saying “yes” or if you are currently working on getting more comfortable saying “no”, I would love to hear about your experiences. How do you say “no” in tough situations? Let’s chat in the comments!