Are you constantly feeling out of time? You’re rushing from one thing to the next, you’re not getting enough sleep and your email inbox is out-of-control. You’re saying YES too much. Stop it!
I wish it were that easy! I should know – I’ve been one of the worst for saying yes to everything and then beelining my way to burn-out. But not any more!
When you’re launching your career or starting a new business there is a lot of pressure to give, especially with the popularity of the “freemium” business model. Some of us just like to do a lot of things. But it all catches up to you eventually. You have to start making smart choices.
That’s right. It’s not about saying no to everything. It’s about saying yes to the right things. And then not feeling guilty about saying no to the wrong things.
Guilt and fear of resentment: the two ugly sisters that can disempower and manipulate you by making you feel bad about your choices. I really can’t put it any better than Danielle B. Grossman, MFT: “Guilt and resentment often reflect an anxiety around saying no that comes from feeling responsible for the other person’s reaction.” It’s completely natural to not want others to experience anxiety, pain and suffering – but does it make sense to save someone else from this if you end up experiencing the same emotions?
I don’t think you should always put yourself first. Like everything in life, it’s all about consideration, compromise and moderation. Give within your means, emotionally, physically and spiritually. You have to maintain a sustainable balance between giving and receiving.
But how? People are always asking you for things!
It took some counselling sessions, a lot of reading, meditation and consultation with wise friends for me to figure this out, but I have a mental checklist of criteria that helps me decide when I should say yes or no to something. I really hope you can start using this (and save yourself a lot of time and money):
The Say Yes Less Checklist
- Do I actually have time to take this on without sacrificing something really important to me?
- Does the request have any benefit for me, or will it make a big enough difference to someone else to make it fulfilling for me?
- Am I the best person for this job?
- Will this task negatively affect me emotionally, physically, financially or spiritually?
- If I say yes, would I say yes for the right reasons or am I just trying to please someone?
If you answer is no to questions 1-3, yes to 4 and yes to the latter part of 5, then you probably shouldn’t take on the request.
I’ll explain questions 1 and 2 a little more fully, because I know they are on that fine Am-I-Being-Selflish? line.
- Before you ever say yes to anything, consider how much of your time it will actually take. For me, this is consideration #1, because I only have an extra 2-3 hours a day for myself, my social life and my business and I require recharge time (something I’ve learned about myself in the last few years). This is all about managing your priorities.
For example, I would say feel free to drop an evening of doing laundry for a quality paying gig. Chances are, you have enough clothes to get you until next laundry day and you’ll probably enjoy the gig more.
On the other hand, I would say do not sacrifice your weekly yoga class for a client who is wishy-washy and non-committal. What is more beneficial? You feeling great will give you energy to find a more ideal client.
- I’m a strategist, so I think of this question in terms of life and career strategy. If something doesn’t benefit me, my business or someone (including creatures) else enough to make my life feel more fulfilling, I won’t do it. This may seem grey on-screen, but I bet you can think of some examples.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t volunteer your time and help others. Just choose activities that you feel good about, and be really honest with yourself about what those activities are. You’re too busy to be giving your time away for a cause you’re not passionate about or a person who isn’t really deserving of your time and support. Don’t let guilt, resentment and pressure get to you!
Here’s a real-life example: People ALWAYS ask me to organize things for them. Self-management runs in the family and I’ve been telling people what to do since I was a little kid. I love being organized (even though it may seem like I’m going crazy sometimes!). Pair that with the fact that I know my way around the Internet really well, and you have a recipe for a lot of requests for free online help. It’s so hard to say no sometimes!
So, I received a request from someone I know to help them out with some internet research. Except the person was really just asking me to do the research for them. Knowing they were fully capable of doing it –it might just take them more time – I said no. The guilt-pangs set in and I almost contacted the person back to say yes . . . but I consulted #2 and stuck to my guns. And my relationship to this person is the same as ever.
It takes practice, and you will say yes to some things you will later regret saying yes to. You’ll still feel guilt and worry about others resenting you, but in the end you’re not responsible for everyone’s problems, even if you’re really good at problem-solving. Use my checklist and take charge of your schedule!