Saying no is a simple concept, but it can often be one of the most difficult things to do.
As a busy mom, taking on too much will quickly lead to burnout. If you’re overwhelmed with tasks, you’ll be stressed out. Your health could even suffer. Ever wonder why you always seem to get sick at the most inopportune times? We’ve all been there!
We can all agree that there aren’t enough hours in the day, but one of the simplest ways to make time for the things that really matter is to just say no. Here are three ways to say no so you can focus on the good things in life:
1. Ruthlessly say no to everything
Make a list of your priorities. Before saying yes to something, ask yourself if it aligns with those priorities. If not, say no without any guilt.
You can’t be all things to all people (even yourself). One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is to be true to myself. You may genuinely want to do everything, but there isn’t enough time in the day.
Instead, figure out what you want out of life. For example, I want to spend time with my family, bless them with a nice (clean) home, and I want to grow as a person.
Then, think about what would help you get there. For example, maybe volunteering at your child’s book fair gives you an opportunity to get involved in your child’s school and see your child during the day. However, volunteering at the school’s Red Cross drive during dinnertime may take you away from your family.
If something (like volunteering for the Red Cross) doesn’t align with your priorities, don’t feel guilty about saying no. Don’t feel obligated to give an excuse. A simple, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to commit to that” is always acceptable.
2. Pause before saying yes
Give yourself the chance to think about each opportunity before saying yes. If something requires an immediate response, do not do it unless it absolutely aligns with your goals.
Review your planner
Before committing, make sure that you have the time to do it.
Also, get in the habit of time blocking and writing everything down, including your regularly scheduled activities. If it’s not written down, chances are you’ll forget about it or accidentally double book yourself.
Consult someone else
Use someone else as your sounding board.
Especially for large decisions, it helps to ask someone who knows you well, like a spouse or good friend, if this is a good decision. Even for smaller time commitments, I sometimes get my spouse’s opinion before making a decision.
Sometimes you may just need another voice of reason.
Make sure you aren’t underestimating the amount of time that things take
I am the queen of underestimating time commitments. I may forget to account for drive time or assume that I can run five errands, go grocery shopping, exercise, and still pick up my son from school in two hours.
Blocking out chunks of time in your planner for each activity could help you have a more realistic perspective, but you should also account for margin time. Inevitably, you’ll get stopped by a train as you’re driving across town or your toddler will lose her socks (true story) as you’re trying to leave the house.
Try to give yourself extra time for the unexpected and be realistic about your time commitments.
Don’t assume that your “future self” will have more time
We all have the same 24 hours every day. Unfortunately, we don’t get extra time in the future, and it’s unlikely that you’ll magically become more efficient at your typical tasks.
I recently read about a study on time management that was conducted at Princeton University. Three groups of students were asked to tutor a group of struggling students during midterms. The first group was asked how much time they would be able to commit now (27 minutes was the average). The second group was asked how much time they would be able to commit to helping the students during the next semester’s midterms (the students were advised that they would be just as busy as they were now). The second group estimated that they would be able to help for an average of ninety minutes. The third group was asked how much time an average freshman would be able to help (two hours was the average). The study concluded that people assume that their “future selves” will have more time, even when advised that they will have the same amount of tasks to complete.
3. Give an alternative or offer another solution
While it’s perfectly acceptable to say no without giving an excuse, sometimes it just feels like you’re letting the other person down.
Maybe you need to say no because it’s not your strongest talent. Maybe you would love to help but don’t have the time or talent to do a specific task. Offer to do something less time-consuming or more in line with your abilities, or even suggest someone else who would be a great fit for the project.
Before committing to something, make sure that it fully aligns with your personal goals. Either ruthlessly say no immediately or give yourself a chance to consider it. Make sure that you take into account the amount of time that something will take (both now and in the future), and make sure that it’s something that you want to commit to before saying yes. If you’re still struggling to say no, give an alternative or offer another solution. Don’t feel obligated to give an excuse, and definitely don’t feel obligated to say “yes!”