It’s hard to say no. If you are one of those people who has no hesitations instantly turning someone down or saying no to a project, request or event, then I envy you.
Saying “yes” has afforded me tons of opportunities that I probably would’ve never had otherwise. It’s opened doors to great experiences and allowed me to try new things that have grown me both personally and professionally. However, the excessive use of “yes” has also crippled me in certain ways in my life.
Why is so difficult to tell someone “no?” Perhaps because it’s often associated with being selfish or rude. Personally I know that I often feel immense pressure to do things that I don’t want to do because I think I should, am allowing someone else to project their expectations onto me or I simply feel bad turning someone down. I feel as though I’ve experienced this struggle in every facet of my life.
Let me clarify here, I am in NO way suggesting that you should start saying “no” to everything. I’m a hug fan of embracing challenges and learning to balance a full plate of inspiring projects, friendships and opportunities. However, I do truly believe that learning to prioritize is key – the more we can learn to identify things that are a waste of time and energy, the more we can truly invest in the things that bring us the most joy and propel us forward in life.
Say “No” to Time Wasters
I know everyone simply suggests to “turn off your smartphone” or “don’t open your email”, etc. However, while that may delay things for a few hours, you’ll still invariably receive the message or request.
I think the important thing here is efficiency, rather than merely shutting it all off. If someone sends me a text that is clearly going to take significant time to respond to, I leave I unread until I have the time to come back to it. Instead of allowing it to pull me away from my current task, I save it until I have downtime (i.e. riding in an Uber…what else am I going to be doing during that time?) to reply.
I’m also ALL about investing in people without expecting anything in return, but choose carefully which/how many of these types of relationships you are engaging with. It’s great to want to be involved with people who don’t have many friends or who need support! I’m ALL about giving freely to those who need it! I think it’s just important to make sure that you’re not spreading yourself thin with too many – and also being mindful of people who may try to take advantage of you.
I can still remember in college I would create study guides for my classmates, write papers for people who needed help, etc. While the heart behind it was good, it sucked away much of my valuable time and truly didn’t do any favors for those people who should’ve been putting in the hard work and effort themselves. I wanted to help and often felt bad saying “no.” However, in the end, my inability to firmly decline requests led to me feeling exhausted and was ultimately counterproductive.
Schedule deadlines for yourself and stick to them. Put time on your personal calendar to work on projects or spend time with someone – don’t be afraid to say no to competing things. Leave some time OPEN for yourself or for spur-of-the-moment opportunities that might come up. For awhile, I found that I had booked every single moment in my calendar, so I had no time to invest in my friendships when fun and unexpected events came up. I’ve since learned to book some open time in my schedule to fill with social activities or investing in some downtime for myself so I don’t suffer from burnout!
Identify and PRIORITIZE what is most important – which people inspire and bring you JOY when you spend time with them? What projects do you really enjoy and which ones are you only doing because you feel guilty if you don’t?
Lately, I’ve been prioritizing my new job. For me, that means saying “no” to pressure I’ve been putting on myself to crank out new blog posts. Instead, I’ve spent the past 6 weeks focusing on learning my new position and investing in my 9-5 career. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be consistent again on my blog, but it does mean that I’ve identified my priority for this season and am learning to say no taking on a million projects right now that will leave me exhausted.
Say “No” to Negative People
I’ve talked about this one before and I’ll most definitely talk about it again – this is so important. I’ve been learning to say “no” to people who are negative influences in my life. Time and time again, I find myself allowing people to be rude to me by excusing their behavior. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given people a free pass to be mean because “they’re probably having a bad day.” While this is fine for a time or two, if this is a consistent behavior, there’s some serious consideration that needs to happen.
I had a friend who would consistently take it out on me when things weren’t going well for her at work. I never knew which version of her I would get – if things went well with her job, she would be SO nice to me, and if things didn’t, I would get the short end of the stick. It was such a sad and exhausting friendship because I obviously had no control over her work life, yet would always suffer the consequences of it. For years, I thought this was normal/fine. Newsflash – it’s not!
People who can’t be happy for your success aren’t your true friends. We all have bad days and we all make mistakes, but learn to recognize consistent negative behavior patterns that leave you feeling frustrated or exhausted. If you are able to cut off or minimize interaction with these people, don’t be afraid to do it!
Say “No” To Things That Aren’t Moving You Forward
How much of your time are you filling with things that aren’t driving you towards your goals, helping others or improving you as a person? I’m ALL about a good Netflix binge if that helps you decompress – we all all need some mindless downtime sometimes! I think I’m more referring to projects that you’re investing in that don’t offer a return on that investment. I had a friend recently tell me that her motto for the year has been “Is it worth the trouble?” I LOVE this as a measure of whether something is worth putting the time into or not. Just because something takes more time or effort doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing – some things are 100% worth blood, sweat and tears. Some things aren’t. Identify those things and have the courage to turn them away to pursue the things that you DO love.
I have to really keep this top of mind with my photography business. For awhile, I was accepting any and every photo project. This was amazing, until it got to the point where I was struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of photos. I found myself spending entire weekends going to shoots that I wasn’t excited about because I didn’t know how to say no. Now, I’ve learned to only accept the projects that I know I’m going to enjoy shooting so that I have time to do MORE of those instead of being split between so many projects.
As someone who always aims to please, it can definitely be difficult to give someone a firm “no.” However, I’ve also realized that these tendencies can actually end up becoming counterproductive because they lead to stress and inefficiency – my final product ends up being worse when I don’t have time to devote!
At the end of the day, I’ve come to recognize that my time is the most valuable resource I have – and I only have so much of it! I’m not suggesting to do less, but rather to do more of what you love by cutting out all of the extraneous things that are vying for your time! Now that sounds like a good solution to me!