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Here's How I Talk Myself Out Of Saying Yes Without The Guilt

We sometimes don't have the time, but don't want to admit how much we're struggling to keep all the balls in the air.

08/31/2017 16:09 EDT | Updated 08/31/2017 16:09 EDT

Lately, I've been finding myself agreeing to do things that I just don't have time to do. I see projects that look interesting and say, "I'd like to do that." or "It would be good for me to learn that." And before you know it, my days are overfilled with work, leaving me too little time in my personal life.

Do you do that, too? Isn't it frustrating?

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We often feel guilty, especially in the workplace because if we say no, that means someone else has to say yes, and likely they don't have time, either. If you ask me to be on the social committee and I say no, I know that means someone will have to be involved — I feel guilty.

We're often flattered that someone has asked us to do or attend something and we don't want to send the wrong message. I was invited to an afternoon event recently that I really didn't have time to go to, but since I am so rarely included in these types of events, I said yes. I went, even though I had to do some serious juggling to accommodate the event. I did it mainly to ensure I would be invited to future events of this kind — when I'm not as busy and will be able to enjoy them more.

We sometimes don't have the time, but don't want to admit how much we're struggling to keep all the balls in the air.

Sometimes saying no is easier when I ask myself these questions.

Think about going to a movie, a spa, or out for coffee or lunch. I really want to go to lunch with you and I'm confident that I will still be able to get everything else done this afternoon. That is, until I get back from lunch and realize I will now have to work an hour of overtime just to keep up.

Sometimes it's a here-and-now situation that will never happen again if we don't take advantage of it. A special play, concert or work event that is today-only. There's a case to be made for saying "yes" to those events.

In order to more easily navigate my own hectic schedule, here are the questions I'm asking myself:

  • Is it the best use of my time?
  • Do I really have time for this?
  • If I say yes to this, what am I potentially saying no to? Which is better in the long run?
  • Will relationships be damaged if I say no?
  • Is this a want to say yes, or a need to say yes situation?

Sometimes saying no is easier when I ask myself these questions.

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For example, Warren and I like to take spin classes together on Monday nights. When I'm out of town he goes without me, but when I'm in town (which isn't too often these days) he wants to do things together. So if I don't have time to go, he doesn't go (and I feel guilty because I know he enjoys it). If I do go, then I may be letting something else slip that needs to be done.

  • Is exercise (for one hour — but assume two hours, total) the best use of my time at 6 p.m. on a Monday evening? Rhonda: Probably.
  • Do I really have time for this? Rhonda: No.
  • If I say yes to this, what am I potentially saying no to? Rhonda: Packing, laundry, some office work.
  • Which is better in the long run? Rhonda: Exercise (It takes 10 minutes to pack, laundry can be done by someone else and I probably am OK with leaving my emails alone this evening).
  • Will relationships be damaged if I say no? Rhonda: No. Warren is very understanding about my schedule.
  • Is this a want to say yes, or a need to say yes question? Rhonda: Want, however I know that exercise in stressful times is good; so I'll say it's actually a need to say yes question.

So I went to exercise class. I stopped beating myself up about not doing laundry, I packed before I went to bed while chatting with Warren and I felt better about going, knowing it was the best thing for me to do.

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A client wanted me to deliver one of my workshops at their location at the end of this month. They have worked with me before and are trying to spend their training budget before it gets taken away.

  • Is this the best use of my time? Rhonda: Yes, paid work is always a good use of my time.
  • Do I really have time for this? Rhonda: No. I really don't.
  • If I say yes to this, what am I potentially saying no to? Rhonda: Time off, prep time for other clients, housework, family time, weekend activities (this event would cause me to travel on a Sunday and lose that family day).
  • Which is better in the long run? Rhonda: My weekend, actually. I told myself a month ago that I had zero availability in my calendar, in the hopes of reminding myself that when I am tempted to squeeze in one more client, I should resist. This could cause me to put less than 100 per cent effort into my existing clients because of a time crunch, which could have huge consequences. My family doesn't remember what I look like and a weekend at home would help with that. In the end, my family is more important than my job, and I want to make sure they know that.
  • Will relationships be damaged if I say no? Rhonda: Not with this client because she is very understanding and we can work around the request by billing in advance for another session. However, if I say yes, my personal relationships might be damaged. Although my family is also very understanding, I don't want to abuse their goodwill.
  • Is this a want to say yes, or a need to say yes? Rhonda: It is a want. The mortgage will be paid this month and honestly, saying no is the right thing for me to do.

It's an easier decision when I walk through it this way. My client was completely understanding, we've rescheduled the date to when I do have some time, and I was happy that I didn't pressure myself into to doing something I didn't have time for.

Even if the client hadn't been understanding and we couldn't reschedule, it still would have been the right choice for me.

Sometimes you don't have the opportunity to say no. But there are times when we feel pressured to say yes thinking there is no other choice. Really, we almost always do have a choice in the matter.

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