Saying no can be really hard, especially if you’re not naturally an assertive person. It can bring on anxiety and it can feel like it’s not worth it, but if we do not learn how to say no, we are only hurting ourselves, wasting precious time that could be spent on what really matters.
We don’t get very much time—and we need a lot of it.
We need time to do our usual things and time to take care of ourselves. We need time to just have nothing to do and time to enjoy life. Things like reading books, having family movie nights, taking a walk, escaping to the beach for the day—they just rarely happen because there’s “not enough time.”
The truth is we aren’t always spending our time in the wisest way, and usually it’s because of our inability to or fear of saying no. If we don’t have time to do enjoyable, healthy things, we won’t have the energy to take care of anyone else.
When all of your time is spent making ends meet, crossing tasks off your to do list, catching up, running errands and staying afloat, then you’re going to run out of time and energy and joy. Fast.
If you want more time (or to know what real free time feels like), time to read a book, take a break from your inbox for a few days, time for coffee with a friend, time to enjoy your family or time to soak up a good night’s sleep, then you’re going to have to say no. And you’re going to have to say no a lot. I get it, you’re a nice person and you want to help others.
But think about each “yes” you’ve given out.
Yes, I’ll take that call.
Yes, I’ll bake cookies for the bake sale.
Yes, I’ll sign up to be team mom.
Yes, I can meet you for coffee.
Yes, you can pick my brain.
Yes, you can call me in five minutes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
And what does your family get? Whatever’s left. And what do you get? Absolutely nothing. It’s no way to go, mama.
We’ve all said “yes” to too much before. Usually it’s because of FOMO or obligation or guilt. But this isn’t working out. We have to learn to say no.
If protecting your time is hard for you, I’ve gotchyo back. Here are some practical ways to start saying no like the boss you are…
1. Check yo’self
Ask yourself a few questions before responding to someone asking if you’re able to do something. Why would you say yes to this? Is it adding to your life in a positive way? Will this help you live on purpose?
2. Let gratitude lead your words
Saying “no” does not mean being a jerk. Let the person know that you are very grateful they thought of you, but you won’t be moving forward. You can even express how exciting something sounds with a “Oh my gosh WOW! Such an amazing opportunity!” and then “but no.” Seriously, I sound sarcastic, but it works and it eases the blow.
3. Don’t say “I don’t have the time right now”
Yeah, you do. We all have the same amount of time and we are in charge of what we spend it on. Don’t patronize the person asking you for some of yours, just be honest. Something like “I’m not giving my time to things like that right now” or “I have other things I need to focus on” will earn you their respect and make a lot more sense than what everyone else says to remove the blame for the “no” they’re dishing out.
4. It’s OK to be brief
Don’t let an awkward silence make you feel the need to fill it. “No” is explanation enough. You don’t owe anyone anything more than that, but you can certainly follow up with “it’s not a good time for me but thanks for thinking of me!” in order to be polite yet concise.
5. Apply essentialism
Greg McKeown, author of the book Essentialism says, “If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” He’s right. You’re in charge, so take it! Does this thing fit in with where you’re wanting to go in your life?