The Power of “No!”

Between work schedules, meeting deadlines, soccer games, PTA meetings, grocery shopping, making dinner, family commitments, and keeping the house somewhat put together, we have little time left for ourselves. It seems like there is not enough time in one day to just get it all done. So we end up cutting out the truly important things, which are usually the things that directly impact us.

Whether you have all of the above commitments or just a few, most of us are stretched way too thin. Learning to say “no” is powerful beyond measure. It helps you focus on yourself–on keeping yourself healthy and feeding your spirit, so you have the energy to do more, when you want to.

For many of us, saying “no” feels awful. How can I say no to volunteering at my child’s school or baking treats for the basketball game? And often, it’s not possible to say no, like when your boss goes out of town for the week and leaves you in charge of your duties as well as all of his. But when you are faced with a full plate, don’t get instantly overwhelmed. Instead, take a step back, take a deep breath, and prioritize.

Try this exercise: Visualize your schedule each day as a segmented dinner plate–there’s an entree and a few sides. The number of sides depends on how much you commit to. You can easily fill up the sides with work and family responsibilities, but leave those for last. Focus instead on the entree. This is the part of your day that you focus on yourself. It may mean taking time to stretch in the morning or leaving your desk for 30 minutes and going for a nice walk outside. It may simply mean treating yourself to a nice dinner and glass of wine or ending your day with a quiet bath. Whatever it is that makes you feel rejuvenated and fulfilled should be placed in the entree.

After that main section is filled, work on the sides. These are the commitments that you must attend to today. Keep in mind that some things can wait until tomorrow–actually, many of them can. Go through those sides, and take out the ones that are really not necessary to complete today. (Do you feel your shoulders lightening yet?) Go through the sides again and do the same thing, asking yourself, “What MUST be accomplished today?” If it’s not imperative, take it off the plate. You may even find that lightening the “sides” will give you more time to add something to the “entree.” Once your virtual plate is filled, keep that visual in mind all day long. Be sure to take things from the “entree section” and infuse them throughout your day. As you do, congratulate yourself on being good to you.

And as you go through your day, you will most-likely be asked to commit to something new. The person may even fluff you up by mentioning how talented you are, making you perfect for this volunteer role that meets once or twice a week. Can you envision adding one more side to your plate? Pinch yourself and nicely say “no.” Now, do you feel empowered? Once you get past the first or second “no,” you’ll be saying “no” to many things that are not essential to your plate, and instead of filling up the sides, you’ll be leaving more room to nourish yourself.