Say “HELL YES” or “NO”.

I’ve been asking my friends to send me their life’s problems so that I can solve all of them.  I enjoy thinking through the issues we all struggle with, and it makes me feel useful.  It also allows me to avoid my own problems, which…  Well mind your own business!

Recently, my new Instagram friend, Courtenay, sent me a great question.  She asked,

“How do I stop saying yes to everything and everyone, ultimately leading me to a constant state of burnout?”

We went back and forth a little more and Courtney explained that she doesn’t say yes to shit she hates, she just wants to say yes to too much.

I have three considerations to offer.

  1. The desire to be liked and avoid conflict:

This isn’t as much Courtenay’s problem, but it’s a big one for most women.  Many of us have an imposter complex. Deep down, we don’t believe we deserve the position we’re in, and we work harder than our male counterparts for the same recognition.  We also coat the whole thing in being agreeable and likable.  Men get away with being more matter of fact about the work they offer.  Is this true for all women?  No, and I hope not.  Is this not also true for men?  Surely not.  So plug it in if it resonates, or don’t.

If you’re this person, my suggestion is to think about the value you bring to your work, and focus on that.  Write it down and keep it at the forefront.  Then practice how to say no in many different contexts.  Rehearse how you would say no to an inappropriate conversation, a request for help, a job you’re not really interested in, etc.  Have those scripts ready so that you don’t get lost in the moment when you need them.

  1. You don’t know your calendar:

When was the last time you looked at what you do in a week?  Not just appointments on your phone calendar, but a break down of the tasks, by the minute?

Begin to do that.  Break it all down to the hour.  Then you see how little or how much time you actually have.  When I was child-free, it took me three minutes to roll out of bed and get in the car.  After becoming a mom, it took a long time for me to figure out that while I was a minimalist in my heart, I now had two other humans who were balls of unfocused lack of urgency.  Now I start getting ready an hour before it’s time to leave the house.  A bonus to knowing your time is you’ll be a lot less stressed out.  Knowing how much time you have will also lead you to the third consideration I offer.

  1. You don’t know your priorities: 

If you’re like Courtenay, you care about everything.  Don’t wait for the right answer.  There are lots of right answers to what you could do with your life.  Pick the things that speak to you the most, that you have the most to offer to, and then get focused.

It reminds me of one of the concepts with self-branding:  If you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing.

If you say yes to everything that sounds good, you spread yourself too thin and you kind of suck.  In this case, think of saying no as saying yes to that which is most important to you.


I could write a book about this, but a lot of people already have.  I recommend a book that was passed along to me a few years ago:

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel J. Smith


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