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Friday, March 5, 2010

Say Yes to You

How good are you at multitasking? I bet almost everyone reading this sat up a bit taller and thought, I’m great at multitasking. It seems like a great concept, doesn’t it? Getting a truckload of tasks completed in a day? But if your day ends with you collapsing into bed with a thousand things still going through your head, or you wake at dawn worrying about something you forgot to do or still need to do, maybe it is time to gain more control over your time.

There are an infinite number of things demanding our attention these days. We have our traditional roles: spouse, parent, family member, friend, and worker. Our kids have a variety of activities offered through the schools and community centers. The television is screaming at us to watch this show, go to that movie, dine-out here, buy this product, and shop at this store. Add on email, Twitter, Facebook and all you have to do to keep up is stop sleeping and eating.

Several years ago, life got overwhelming. I had a nagging sense that something was missing, so I searched for something different. Something to help me feel I’m living my life rather than suddenly snapping out of a haze and realizing years had passed without me being fully aware of the days. I stumbled upon a book by Cheryl Richardson “Take Time For Your Life” and found it very useful. One piece of advice I took was accepting that I needed to limit my commitments.

It wasn’t easy, because at first I worried that I might seem selfish. But, a co-worker has a great motto to keep things in perspective. “When you say yes to one thing, you are also saying no to another.” So, if you say yes to working late, you are also saying no to spending time with your family. Wow. When I look at the situation from that perspective, it changes my attitude a lot. Who wants to cheat their family out of time?

I’m sure eliminating things from our to-do list sounds great, and if we can dump the guilt associated with saying no, we are in a good place. Here are some ways we can prepare ourselves for the next request made of us:

(1) Schedule some time away from everyone to reflect on what is most important to you. This is a must. It is not enough to quickly say, “Yeah, my family is number one.” You need time to really consider what that means. Does that mean keeping the house as clean as it can be? Does it mean chaperoning all field trips? Does it mean regular date nights with your spouse? Does it mean having a game night?

(2) Bring a journal, your laptop or a notebook to make notes.

(3) Ask yourself these questions to help you clarify exactly what is important to you.
• Who are the important people in my life?
• What is draining me?
• What do I need more of right now?
• How do I want to spend my time?
• What do I think needs my attention right now?
• What do I need to give up in my life?

(4) From your answers, narrow down the five most important things to you and list them. Now, keep your list handy so that when people make a request of you, you can refer to it. If the request fits your top values, then you know it is something you might want to agree to doing.

(5) Let those close to you know you are focusing more of your energy on certain areas in your life right now, so you may be declining invitations or requests.

(6) When you receive a request, let the person know you want to think it over and give them a deadline of when you will let them know. Don't forget to get back to them when you say you will.

(7) If you say no, graciously tell the person, "Thank you for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to (fill in the blank) right now." No need to offer excuses or over-explain the reason.

(8) Make your new found time meaningful.


  1. What an awesome post, Samantha! This is something I need to do so badly! I'm definitely going to sit down and answer those questions. I already know what I need to eliminate, or at least cut back on, so it won't be hard to answer those questions. But I think having them and SEEING them in writing will make a big difference. I'm a list-oriented person, and without one, I'm lost! LOL! So, I think this is going to help me tremendously! Thank you for this post!!

  2. Great suggestions, Samantha. I did this many years ago, but somewhere along the way, I've gone back into old habits. It might be time to reevaluate my priorities.

  3. It's so easy to get overscheduled, especially in spring when the kids' sports schedule fills up. Great suggestions and great reminders. Thanks!

  4. Samantha, you give great advice. Just at the moment, I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. My priorities have been family and writing, but just last week I managed to forget my wedding anniversary. The fact that hubby forgot too was a small consolation.

    After I kicked myself a hundred times, hugged my husband quite a lot, I tried to work out how it could happen. We've never made a big fuss of the day - we tend to make our birthdays the focus - but remembering at 9pm is a new one for us.

    All I can think of is that I spend way too much time worrying about the wrong things. Reading blogs and emails takes time away from my family and writing. The two most important things in my life. Clearly, things need to change.