I remember when I started my own business I chased every opportunity that came my way. To grow my business, I said yes to everything. At first, it was great. My professional network grew and so did my client base. But then I hit a wall. I was exhausted and overcommitted. My calendar continued to fill up, but my bottom line was stagnating.
Besides being a Wife of one and a Mother of 4 that alone takes up most of my time I was stretching myself thin saying yes to everyone and every opportunity that came my way. I felt that every opportunity would help my business grow and my family more but I became unfocused and exhausted day in and day out. So I took a step back and started to measure what events and activities actually made my business grow and as for me not be so stretched thin.
So why is one tiny word so hard for most of us to say? It’s because deep down inside, we all want to be liked and scared that we will miss an opportunity that will change our lives for the better. As I have learned through trial and error having a healthy balance of God, Family, Business and friends the rest that I don’t have time for will take care of itself.
To keep a balance between being a wife, a mother, a husband, a father and a friend here are some guidelines for learning to say no.
1. Keep in mind that you alone know what is best for you and your family. With many mothers and fathers working outside the home, there are fewer school, church and community volunteers available during the day. Therefore, you are likely to be asked more often, simply because you are perceived to be more available. Remember, even with any other activities that are not in our home, that our families are our first ministry.
2. Never say yes on the spot. Always tell the person you will call back after you’ve had time to pray, look at your schedule and think about it. This keeps you from making an on-the-spot decision you may regret. You can say no immediately, however, if you know that the position or responsibility is wrong for you.
3. When considering a time commitment, make sure you take preparation time into account. Most of us underestimate the time it takes to really do a job. If you have been asked to bake five dozen cookies, look at the calendar and determine whether you truly have that much free time available before the cookies need to be delivered. If it looks too busy, say you’re sorry, but you can’t do it.
4. When considering long-term commitments, make sure you consider all your household, responsibilities and the time constraints that accompany them. It may seem that becoming the president of an organization you really believe in will not take too much time. But after a few months, the phone calls, meetings and errands begin to take up the time you previously used for laundry, housecleaning or paying the bills. These are big jobs that need to be integrated into your weekly and daily responsibilities. Don’t allow your family responsibilities to be sacrificed for your volunteer responsibilities.
5. Carefully consider the “brain space” this responsibility will require. Have you ever been listening to your children, but really thinking about a new project or the hundreds of things you needed to do? When your mind is cluttered, you are not mentally available to anyone.
6. Remember every minute of your day does not have to be scheduled! If you have a “doer” mentality, you will think of a spare hour or two as a way to fit in one more “yes.” Yet we need some time to do nothing. If you need to, schedule in “downtime” each day. Write it on your calendar and say no to anything that would fill this time.
7. Ask for accountability. Ask your husband, a close friend or your Bible study group to hold you accountable for the number of commitments you will carry. Be open to their insight. If you have trouble saying no, ask them to help you during the first few months while you get things back in balance. When you tell someone you will call him back, check with your accountability partner first before answering. Sort through your schedule with them. Eventually you won’t need the partner’s help, but it can help you while you are learning to say no.
8. When you do say no, don’t feel that you need to give a long list of excuses. You know what is best for your family and for yourself. If you feel you must give an excuse, simply say that it would not fit into your schedule at this time.
9. Keep in mind that you do not have to say yes simply because you are capable. You may have strong leadership skills and will most likely be asked to lead anything you get involved in. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes to those responsibilities. You should say yes only after considering your time availability, other volunteer responsibilities, your family commitments and what you might need to give up to properly do this job. Of course, above all, you should say yes only after praying and seeking God’s will.
10. Remember that saying no allows others the opportunity to say yes. Don’t take service opportunities away from others. Don’t forget to make time to have a friend over, take your kids to the park, write a letter or go on a date with your husband or wife. We don’t usually schedule these kinds of activities, but they are the first to go when we are overcommitted.
Remember that saying yes to some activities outside the home will be important to your sanity. Moms and Dads of young children need to get out of the house to socialize and think about something other than diapers, bottles, coupons and business. Contrary to popular belief, your brain will not turn to mush. It will just feel like it at times. We need to carefully choose those activities we will be involved in so that our time will be used wisely. You will be amazed at the patience you will have with your family when you find balance in your activity schedule.