If you constantly feel overextended, yet have a hard time saying "No" to friends, coworkers and family members, here are seven practical strategies to help you reclaim your time.
1. Stop yourself from saying "yes" and reevaluate your current commitments
Ask yourself if your to-do list is already too long. If so, should you commit to another task? When we agree to do something for someone else, we are making a verbal contract which, if broken, erodes trust in the relationship. Consider the consequences of time constraints and broken promises before committing to anything.
Tip: Keep organized with reminders, such as our rustic message board.
2. Befriend yourself
Often we are harder on ourselves than we are on our friends. If you saw all your activities and demands being placed on the shoulders of your best friend, would you ask your best friend to do even more? Probably not.
3. Embrace saying "no" to others
Ask yourself how you could benefit from saying no. You may be able to appreciate more free time, a sane pace, a break in the day, less stress, etc. We often think saying no is a bad thing when it is actually very life-giving. Having human limits is a good thing.
4. Respect your needs, limits and self
Before committing to something, ask yourself if you would be respecting your needs and limits by saying yes to this request. We need to honour our own needs and self rather than give ourselves away in situations that require commitment. If we don't respect ourselves, our friends and family won't respect us either.
5. Push back
Often the person bringing a request forward just needs help so that they can do it themselves. Brainstorm possible ways in which they could do it themselves. This way, they become empowered and you stop being the go-to person when things need to get done. This one works well in business as well as at home.
Page 1 of 2 – Learn how to lean on others and ask for help if you need it with tips on page 2.
6. Ask for help
Take the time to think of who can help you or to whom you can delegate activities. Ask for help. You are being a good role model to family and friends by being balanced in the amount of activity you take on.
7. Look for patterns and challenge them
Ask yourself if you're more likely to accept unreasonable requests from:
• friends of the same sex
• friends of the opposite sex
• intimate relations such as spouse, boyfriend
• parents, in-laws and other family members, children
• authority figures such as professors, doctors, bosses
• business contacts, salespersons
• co-workers, colleagues and subordinates
If you find it harder to say no to certain people, examine your reasons for this and try to change these patterns.
Mary-Ann Owens is the founding president of the Calgary chapter of the International Coach Federation and a coaching skills instructor at the University of Calgary. Owens works with business leaders as well as individuals who want to make changes in their professional lives. She has taught stress management as both a career counsellor and a coach. Owens has an MBA in human-resources management, and her specialty is in personal development and management.
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