5 Ways to Get Good at Saying No

I used to schedule every minute of every day.

I lived by my planner and calendar and rarely deviated from them. I had to do lists for work and to do lists for personal. I had lists of people to call and things to blog about and areas of my house to organize and reorganize again.  I constantly told myself that the best way to live life was to work then play; priding myself on being someone who could get.stuff.done.

But the problem was, when was I making time to play? 

It's easy, I think, to yearn for time to do nothing. As I've gotten older, though, I've begun to understand that having excess room in our lives isn't so that we can do nothing. Instead, it's to make room to do what we love.

I used to try to make time to watch TV, but, the problem was, it didn't fulfill me. I'd etch out an hour a week to be unscheduled - to sit in front of the TV on the couch - and would find it so unfulfilling that it never seemed like enough. I found myself both despising the time and yearning for more of it simultaneously.

Throughout my 20s, I began to understand that I was going about it the wrong way. I don't yearn for time watching TV, so why was I trying to carve out dedicated time for it? I've had to learn to quiet that voice that tells me what I should be doing and instead listen to the quieter, kinder voice that urges me to make time for self-care. The voice that reminds me I deserve rest and pleasure, not because I've earned them with a to do list, but instead because I exist and I am enough as I am.

Most of all, I've had to learn to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things. Here's how I got good (read: better) at saying no and making time for self care:

1. Write a purpose statement for this season of life. What do you want this phase of life to stand for? What do you want to get out of it? What matters? What doesn't?

My purpose statement for this season looks something like this:

This summer, I want to spend more time with my friends and family, so I can grow deeper in those relationships. I want to be present and relaxed with them, so that I can be real and vulnerable. I don't want to be checking the clock or squeezing them in between other things or asking them to schedule time with me in advance. 

I also want to start every day by reading my bible and journaling, so I can get closer to the Lord. I want to lead a weekly discipleship group and make time to worship regularly. 

I want to grow my blog and my coaching business. I want to get enough sleep. And have time to read, do yoga and exercise. I want to have room for spontaneity, adventure and relaxation.

That's all I want to do this summer. There are a lot of things that didn't make this list. I am not going to be volunteering at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta or at Truly Living Well community garden like I have in the past. I am not going to be trying to make new friends, but instead pouring into the ones that are already in my life. I am not going to be getting certified in yoga, which I had originally planned to do. I'm not going to be selling essential oils or taking any classes or doing any of the things I've done in the past to hustle all day long.

But those are good things. Why am I cutting them out? I haven't eliminated them because they are a waste of time or energy, but, instead, because they don't align with my purpose for this summer. And that's my litmus test. If it doesn't fit into my purpose statement, I won't add it to my schedule.

2. Be kind, honest and firm in your no. If you choose to say no to something that doesn't align with your purpose, be honest with whomever has asked you. I've been amazed at the way people have understood and appreciated the honesty when I tell them, kindly, that I'd love to another time, but right now, I do not have capacity to take on what they're asking me to do. After you say no, though, be firm in it. Don't go back and make sure it's OK with them, or apologize excessively. We do ourselves a disservice when we seek permission or apologize unnecessarily.

3. Bolster your reasoning. Make a list of why you want to cut things out of your life. Here's what my list looks like:

- I am a better friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend, etc., when I make time for myself. And being good to the people I love is the best motivation for me.
- I am more patient, a better conversationalist and more energized when I make time for myself.
- I am more grounded in what I want and who I am when I practice self care
- I deserve alone time, self care and doing what I enjoy simply because I exist. Not because I have earned it.

4. Take baby steps. If at first taking a whole night to yourself each week feels unreasonable, start smaller. Consider taking 15 minutes every day after work to read. Try setting an alarm to spend an hour listening to music or reading a magazine uninterrupted. Practice giving yourself little chunks of time that feel life giving and rejuvenating. Eventually, you will work up to more time.

5. Remember: you are not everything to everyone. Pleasers and doers tend to think that the world will stop turning if they stop doing. Remind yourself: you are not the only person that can take on that task, complete that list or give that advice. You are not responsible for the success of everything or everyone's feelings. It is not your job to be everything to everyone.

Now, happy Wednesday! I'm off to journal and do some yoga. And that's all :)