so you can yes to the best!

I used to say yes a lot … a lot. I still do sometimes but I have learned some management tools to help me.

If I was asked to do something, my first instinct was yes, unless I couldn’t. And by couldn’t, I mean, I’ve already said yes to something else. Even then, when I couldn’t, I’d agonize over everything to see if we could possibly make it work.

The challenge with this habit of saying yes, is that I often found myself overwhelmed by to many obligations, responsibilities and to do’s that I never had time to do the things I wanted to or had any time for myself. I’m an introvert so my alone time is important to me. But saying yes has always taken priority to my needs.

I knew this habit wasn’t working but I didn’t know how to stop it. How did I risk letting others down? Or disappointing them?

Then, a wise woman, in a toastmasters speech, asked the room … “if you never say no, what is the value of your yes”… it is a powerful question isn’t it? I remember her question sat with me even days after the speech. Around the same time, I was reading “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. In her book, Shonda talks as much about saying yes as learning to say no.

My husband also confided that all the things we were committed do was starting to feel draining and feeling like we didn’t have time for us and our home.

All of these independent events convinced me to re-evaluate. Once I really reflected I realized that the healthiest thing for me to do was learn to say no. I needed to learn to set boundaries for myself. I needed to learn to put my needs first.

As you might know by now, I LOVE procecess. Thus, I did what I do best and created processes and guidelines to help me. Here is what I did:

  • I time block… using this system I set a maximum number of hours I can spend on certain things. For example, I can give X hours to social activities or X hours to volunteer type of work. I’m realistic so I understand that every once in awhile, something will need more than the set hours, but this should be an exception, not the norm.
  • My husband and I agreed that we could commit the other person to only one social thing a week. We can individually choose to do social things with people, but we cannot schedule the other person more than once per week. (this was really meant to control my habit of saying yet to every invite).
  • We now set aside one evening/day a month to “date” one another. We also take turns planning these events. The idea is to get us away from he default “dinner and movie” and do new things together.
  • The biggest strategy is to delay or deflect saying yes right away. I’ll tell you that I have to check my calender or check with my husband or confirm something. Anythign to give me time to seriously think about what I want or what I want to commit my time. I actually have above my desk the following question:

Does it help you reach your goal?
Is it a “oh yeah!”?
Then it is a NO!

I will be the first to admit it wasn’t always easy learning to say no. I got tested. A lot. One of the hardest challenges was figuring out to do with myself on a Friday night with no plans… I suddenly realized that I had no hobbies.

You would think that COVID would have made some of this easier… it didn’t. I think is was May when my husband and I realized that with all the social zoom dinners, games and drinks we were breaking our guidelines. We had to learn to set new boundaries and learn new ways of managing things. For example, my husband can have a game night on zoom and I am still in the house. It might be hard for people to understand why I’m not participating but we work in the same office, we run our businesses together and we are husband and wife. Sometimes we just need a break from one another. We get it… we respect it … sometimes others don’t.

Overall, I’m happy I set these boundaries. We have had more time for our house and projects we were struggling to get done, our dates are a lot fun and I got a hobby.

Do you have trouble saying no? Do you say yes a lot? Is it time for you to learn to say no too? I’d love to hear what stops you from saying no.

“Daring to set boundries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brene Brown