Sometimes I sit down to write something, and then find that someone else can do it better. Such was the case this week, when I wanted to share some thoughts on the importance of saying “no.” I came across this post from Courtney Carver, “10 Simple Ways to Help You Say No,” and I loved how she broke it down into really actionable tips.

But even with all of those practical ways to say “no,” it’s more in my nature to explore the reasons why we need to say no at certain times. What does saying “no” do for our goals, our families, and our lives?

Saying No Can Move You Toward Your Goals or Vision for Your Life

life is good woman

Most of us have—at one point or another– found ourselves in a season of life where it feels like our priorities are not what we’d like them to be. We ask ourselves, why did I just spend four hours working on this PTA presentation while my family ate takeout for dinner without me? Did I really just pass up coffee with a girlfriend because I have a full day of work to do on a Saturday? How did this happen?

Most often, saying “yes” to everything can get us into some trouble this way. We say “yes” to anything that comes our way, and before we know it, we’re not sure where our time went. Taking a step back and saying “no” is key to establishing boundaries for yourself, your time, and your life, and “no” is a powerful tool in protecting what you value. But first, you need to know—what do I value?

What’s Important to Me?

family on a pier at sunset

To help me be start saying “no” more often, I first need to determine where my priorities lie. Hypothetically, I could choose to make the following three things high priorities in my life:

  1. Spending time with my spouse and children
  2. Eating and cooking healthy meals
  3. Gardening

These are just a few random examples, of course. But, let’s say you receive three invitations to events or outings in one week. One is a gardening seminar on how to grow your own leafy greens, one is a class on how to involve your family in cooking efforts, and one is a sporting event with friends. Looking at the list of priorities, one of these doesn’t fall under any of the three priorities, and is therefore an obvious “no.” But even the other two invites, while aligning with your goals, don’t make them an automatic “yes”.

Of course, life won’t always be this black-and-white, and sometimes you may be forced to make difficult decisions when saying “no.” But in the end, knowing what you truly value—along with practicing how to say no– will make it easier to make decisions about how to spend your time.

The Consequences of Not Saying No

a couple communicating

When you’re fuzzy on your priorities in life, it’s very possible that you’ll say “yes” to things that don’t actually matter to you. At the most extreme level, you may commit yourself to way too many tasks or projects, which can lead to serious burnout. If you are feeling that way right now, it’s time to put on your own oxygen mask first and focus on reclaiming your own life.

Often, we say yes out of fear that others won’t like us, or they’ll think less of us for saying no to them. In these situations, remind yourself that your intention is not to hurt the other person—it’s simply to protect what you yourself value. Realize that most of the time, when someone asks you to do something, they really are just asking. And whatever answer you give them, it’ll be ok.

To avoid being caught off guard, it can be helpful to come up with some respectful and kind ways to say “no” in any situation. Being prepared will help you to show another person that you value them, but aren’t choosing to say yes. Here are a few examples of phrases I’ve used that have been helpful.

  • Thank you, but that’s not going to work for my schedule right now.
  • I appreciate the offer, but I won’t be able to participate.
  • I’m so grateful that you asked, but not this time.

For more ideas on how to say “no” effectively, check out the article I’ve referenced at the beginning of this post. With some preparation and some ammunition, you can avoid saying yes to every little thing and finding yourself in a state of complete overwhelm.

Taking on too much can also wreak havoc on those around you, making it all the more important to learn how to say no. If you have a million things on your mind on any given day, you’re more likely to forget someone’s birthday, accidentally stand up a friend for lunch because you were in panic mode, or even give ineffective efforts at work. Spreading yourself thin can mean you don’t have enough energy to do anything effectively, which is sure to take a toll on your relationships and your work life. Fortunately, there’s one word that protect your sanity and your time: “NO.”

How Do I Know When to Say “No”?

calm women on cliff contemplating life

Situations are undoubtedly going to arise where you don’t stop to think about your answer before giving it, or you can’t decide what your answer should be. In the bigger picture, it’s so important to listen to your body to know whether you’re overwhelmed to avoid making a snap decision that you’ll regret later. Personally, when I’m in over my head, my stomach hurts. Some people get headaches, or have trouble sleeping—both of which are signs of stress that is too much for your body to handle. Listen to how you feel physically, and to put it simply, “trust your gut” when your body begins to show signs of overwhelm.

Sometimes, you can even become aware of your train of thought that points to overwhelm. Asking yourself questions like, “How will I ever get this all done?” or thinking “I can’t believe I have such a long to-do list” is a giant red flag that means you need to slow down and start saying “no.”  To be fair, saying “no” is not an easy task for many of us, and many times you really have no option but to say yes. But if you can truly align yourself with your priorities and use “no” as a tool to protect your time, you may find that you’re much happier and more effective in the long run.

A Fresh Space specializes in helping our clients take back their time and establish healthy systems for time and home management. Contact us today for help in getting started in your own life!