I have a tendency toward people-pleasing, which means if I’m not careful, I’ll say “yes” to every opportunity and fill my plate so full that I can’t accomplish half of what I take on–and what I do accomplish, I don’t do well. This leads to guilt over producing sub-par work and a desire to try even harder to make up for it. Wash-rinse-repeat.
I’m slowly learning how to say “no” to good opportunities that are not “best,” or are not “best” right now. Case-in-point: I’ve been interacting with a gentleman who was looking for freelance help with an editing project. When the time came to follow-up with him, I hesitated. A few days, then a week, then a few weeks passed. As time lapsed, I grew more and more embarrassed by my lack of response to his invitation.
My ever-perceptive wife asked, “Why are you beating yourself up over this? If you wanted to do it, you would have done it already, right?”
She was right, of course. I was slow to admit it, but I don’t have the room in my schedule, and I’m not prepared to stop work on any of my current projects in order to start a new one. Adding anything else to my plate would hurt my efforts elsewhere.
Finally, more than a month after I should have responded, I sent him a note, apologizing for the delay, thanking him for considering me, and asking to bow out of the project at this time.
And the craziest thing happened: he was totally fine with that. My feelings of awkwardness were wasted energy. He had already moved on, with no hard feelings, and graciously left the door open for me to check back later.
Consider how things might have been different if I had plowed ahead, without taking thought of what time commitment was required or how I would need to say “no” to other things in order to accommodate it. My work (and possibly my reputation) might have suffered, resulting in frustration and disappointment on my part and potentially a closed door to future work of this kind.
So, all in all, saying “no thanks” was a good decision (one I should have arrived at sooner, I’ll grant you). I’m glad I chose a difficult “no” in order to say “yes” to the things that are more important to me, right now.
So here’s something for you to consider, dear reader: you have a limited amount of time and energy every day, as much as you’d like to think otherwise. Perhaps a wise and fruitful thing for you to focus on today is to make sure that the things that take up your time and energy are actually helping you pursue what you value most. (I don’t mean to encourage prodigal abandonment of responsibilities, either. If you are a grown adult, one of your goals should be to work your job, pay your bills, and take care of your household. We live in the real world, folks.)
If you feel like you have taken on much more than you can handle, maybe it’s time that you start applying the word “no” to your to-do list and calendar, as I have. It’s amazing the difference that it makes.
Your Turn: Have you had to say “no” to a good opportunity, because it wasn’t a good fit for your priorities and/or schedule? How did it turn out? Share below in the comments. (And I’ll get out ahead of the jokesters by saying that “No” isn’t a valid comment. I’m looking at you, MC.)