Learning to say no is as important as knowing when to say yes. We all love to help others, feel needed, and valuable. When our commitments to others affect our relationships with our spouse or our children, something needs to change. Start thinking of your energy/mind-share as a piggy bank. You can take coins out, but if you don’t replenish, you will soon be on empty.
Prioritize Your Commitments
Learn to say no to outside commitments. Take your to-do list, prioritize the meaningful activities in your life and only commit to the most important ones. The others all fall into the “optional” category—something worth taking on later when you have more time or more energy. Call off what you can’t handle. Being truthful with yourself means you’re also being truthful with others. I have found that people worth your time will appreciate your honesty, especially if you explain where you’re coming from.
You can also delegate to others to decrease your load. If you need something off your plate, suggest someone else who might be able to help. You’ll feel less guilty. Talking about guilt, it’s important to admit that we all have our limits. Just like our children need down-time to be calm, so do we.
Respect Your Needs
Learning to say no means respecting your needs. Sometimes I turn down invitations that conflict with my sleep schedule. I wake up really early, so I joke around that I turn into a pumpkin at sundown. My family knows my limits. We therefore socialize more during the day to ensure that I get the rest I need at night. Since I am very pleasant once I have had my sleep, this benefits everyone.
Set Your Limits
Don’t get pulled into an avalanche of commitments. If you are a parent of school-age children, you know how demanding volunteering can be on your time. Schools need all the help they can get, but the burden should not fall on just a few. Delegating is a great way to be helpful, without over extending yourself. I recommend that you decide on what you are willing to participate in and how much of a time commitment you are willing to take on prior to going to board or PTA meetings. This way you will not be caught off guard.
Put Things in Perspective
Learning to say no takes practice. It feels uncomfortable at first. Remind yourself how often you do say yes, and you will soon realize you are doing your share.