I'm fortunate that my husband is often my counterbalance. I'm a cliché product of my generation, driven to prove that I can do it all and be it all, which frequently results in over commitment on my part. Where I am quick to say yes to requests and demands, my husband excels at boundaries. He easily rejects crowding his schedule with back-to-back engagements. He grasped the importance of #selfcare long before it became a mainstream conversation.
The reasons so many of us struggle are numerous and universal, but most are grounded in fear.
Fear is often a hidden but dangerous motivator. Of course, we can attribute our actions using nicer terminology--I'm a people pleaser—but it is just a mask for a mindset tempered by fear.
Time is finite, making yes and no two sides of the same coin. So when we say yes to something, we are also saying no to something else. Consider these examples.
When we say yes to going out to a fancy dinner, we say no to putting that money into our savings to purchase a new car.
When we say yes to meeting our best friend for a run in the mornings before work, we say no to getting an extra hour of sleep.
When we say yes to doing the bookkeeping ourselves, we say no to spending that time on income-generating activities.
Filling our time with activities eventually means that our dance card is full. Initially, this may not be problematic, but over time problems tend to arise. We grow tired and overworked, raising feelings of resentment. Or worse, we feel forced to say no to something we want to do (like a highly lucrative client) because we can't fit it into our schedule.
One of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Peter Block is this, "Your YES means nothing if you can't say NO." Giving thorough consideration to when and why we agree to a commitment is good business. When we allow YES to become our default, we may please others while limiting ourselves.
So how do you stop the YES bully from stealing your time? Try these actions.
ONE. Set boundaries
My work with clients always begins at the end. We focus on outcomes and visualize how things will be different six months after the change. This exercise is also helpful for shining a light on what matters most to you so that you can set limits that honor your priorities.
When I was a corporate employee, I worked long hours. However, I also had a clear boundary. Once I parked my car in the garage at the end of the day, I did not take phone calls or work on my computer. My evenings and weekends were family time and a chance for me to disconnect from work. It was a healthy boundary that helped me avoid burnout, and I never received pushback from my colleagues, clients, or superiors.
Permission to create the balance you want must start with you. And as we say on our podcast, A Nickel & A Plan, it is never too little and never too late. Often changes don't have to be drastic. Start small. Once you open yourself to the idea that things can be different, you'll start to identify previously hidden shifts that allow your boundaries without sacrificing your other goals.
TWO. Listen for your NO
A few years ago, I worked with a therapist who told me that I had excellent instincts, but then I talked myself out of them. In other words, my gut reaction was to say NO, but then I'd talk myself into agreeing instead.
Here are some helpful hints that you know you should say NO.
Often it is easier for us to turn someone down when we can offer them something instead of sending them away empty-handed. Your cultivated network of professional resources is handy in these situations. For example, you can provide an introduction to someone else, send articles or other reference materials, or offer connections to other resources. These actions allow you to add value without making a time-consuming commitment.
Standing up to your YES bully requires intention and practice. Remember, fear is a liar. Challenging your assumptions and beliefs and identifying alternatives to avoid the worst outcomes taking over your thoughts is the path to freedom from this time thief.
How do you avoid falling victim to that niggling thought that you have to say yes? Let's crowdsource more strategies from this brilliant community and take back our time.