As a professional organizer, if there’s one source of stress I see over and over again with clients, friends and business associates alike, it’s over-commitment, having too much to do. To truly simplify and regain control of your life, a realistic time management plan, free from too much to-do, is a must. It’s that simple.
There’s just one problem. To prevent overcommitting, you have to learn to say “no”. For many, especially you ladies out there (you know who you are) saying “no” is akin to getting a root canal. It’s thoroughly unnatural and completely painful.
Here are six strategies and techniques to help you say “no” and free yourself from the stress of having too much to do, once and for all.
1. Know your priorities.
Being clear about what is truly important to you is the first step to saying no. When you know what you want out of life, you’ll be more deliberate about how you spend your time. It will be easier to see when obligations, tasks and responsibilities fit into your ideal life plan, and when they don’t. This knowledge empowers you to say “no” and over time, you’ll even learn to feel good about it.
2. Know your bosses priorities.
OK you say, “But it’s not me. It’s my boss. He just keeps piling on the work. How can I tell my boss ‘no’ without getting fired or passed over for promotion?” Good question. Again, let’s get back to priorities. Do you know your bosses priorities? Do you know the priorities of your boss’ boss? Just as knowing your own priorities helps you say no in your personal life, knowing what makes your boss tick (or what will help him or her get their bonus) allows you a chance to renegotiate your work load.
3. Say no for now.
If your boss plops a new project on your lap, look for ways to postpone starting the project – if your plate is already full. Try an approach like this: “That sounds like a great project. I can see the positive impact it would have on our organization. I’d love to start working on it in a month, after I have wrapped up projects X and Y. Are you agreeable with that?” You’ll show your boss your impeccable time management skills and how in sync you are with your organization’s goals. And he or she never had to hear the word “no” – how great is that?
4. Know how to say no.
Say things like “Thank you for the offer, but I’ll have to pass this time.” Or “Thank you, but that doesn’t fit in my schedule right now.” Having some pre-rehearsed, friendly ways of saying “no” will help you muster the courage to decline offers graciously when you want to and need to.
5. Approach no from a position of power.
Instead of saying “I can’t do this” say “this doesn’t fit my priorities right now.” When you say “I can’t” the words themselves feel powerless. By realizing something doesn’t fit your priorities and turning it down, you’re putting yourself in a position of power: the power to make decisions that help you get what you want out of life.
6. Say no to your kids, too.
I can hear my son saying “you’re mean mommy” as I type those words. But truly, I think saying no to a child is one of the biggest favors you can do for them. Especially in the long term. By teaching your child to accept no from you and others, you’ll teach him an important life skill, being able to say no himself. You’ll teach him to prioritize and pick activities he values most, instead of signing up for every single extracurricular activity that comes along – just because. And you’ll free up some downtime, for you and your family, which is really what breaking the cycle of over-committing is all about anyway.
Using these six techniques you will free yourself from the stress of too much to do and create time to do what you enjoy … like just hanging out with your family or playing ball in the front yard. Doesn’t that sound nice? Just say “no” and you can have it, too!
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