TAKE BACK YOUR TIME: HOW TO EVALUATE YOUR COMMITMENTS AND SAY NO
Once you realize you’ve spent too much time saying yes to the wrong things, it’s normal to feel trapped. You feel as if you can’t back out now. You might worry that everyone will think you’re a quitter or that you’ll let the people around you down. But continuing with an external yes when you’re feeling an internal no is a sure recipe for burn out, exhaustion, and crankiness.
Regardless of how long you’ve spent saying yes, you can reverse course and begin embracing your nay. While it may take a few weeks or months depending on your commitments, it is possible to reclaim your time. Start by asking yourself a few key questions…
What Does a Typical Day Look Like for You?
Take some time to journal this question out. Write down all the things you do from the moment you get up until your head hits the pillow again. This can include your professional and work responsibilities as well as your personal commitments. Leave nothing out so you can evaluate it all.
What Would Your Ideal Day Look Like?
Now, take some time to journal through this question. You may have to spend some time thinking over it. You may have lived on autopilot and said yes so often that you’ve forgotten what it feels like to consider your own wants and needs.
Focus on what you’d do if you had no responsibilities or commitments except those that you really enjoyed. Would you spend your time painting seascapes? Would you take your child to the park every afternoon? Would you volunteer and become a larger part of your community?
Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers here. There’s only space to dream about what you want.
What Can You Do to Make a Change?
Once you’ve thought about what a typical day looks like vs an ideal day, it’s time to consider the difference. Sometimes, the differences may be obvious. Perhaps you wanted more time for self-care or less time with your toxic family or space to explore your artistic pursuits.
When Kennedy realized her ideal day included more time with her spouse and kids, she began cutting back on her evening commitments. A few weeks later, she had created a schedule where her evenings were entirely devoted to her family.
Who Are Your Time and Energy Vampires?
As you’re looking at what you can do to change your life, you may feel there are certain things you can’t change. After all, your mom always calls you for long chats about the many things that are going wrong in her life or your best friend constantly needs a free babysitter. These people are “vampires”. They suck your time and energy away.
You can usually recognize a vampire because you leave feeling used. You’re typically unhappy, negative, and drained after spending extended time around a vampire. You’re always looking for an excuse to avoid this person.
How Can You Give Less?
When it comes to vampires, they always take far more than they give. They want your time and attention but when you need it in return, they can’t seem to make the effort to look after you.
In a healthy relationship, there’s room for give and take. But with a vampire, there’s only take-take-take while you give-give-give.
Although it may not be easy, it’s time to consider giving less. Maybe you could skip your moms call, only answering her every other day or simply changing the course of the conversation. Perhaps you could be “busy” when that friend of yours needs a free babysitter.
Evaluating your commitments and saying no can sound like a daunting task at first. But it’s worth the effort. On the other side of all these events and responsibilities is the blissful no.
Prioritize Your Health And Self-Care With No
If you’re constantly saying yes to everyone else and making more commitments than you can possibly keep up with, your health will suffer. You may begin cutting corners with your self-care by skipping sleep, ducking out on workouts, and eating poorly.
The problem is that if you continue on this path, you may suffer from the permanent effects of saying yes too much. Fortunately, you can change things. You can prioritize your health and self-care with no. You can start by considering these questions…
What Is Stressing You Out?
Consider all the things you do in a day (you may want to look at your previous journaling session for this). Put a star beside the ones that make you happy and add joy to your life. Put a circle by the ones that don’t necessarily add to your stress.
By the tasks and commitments that fill you with dread, put a square. These might be tasks that routinely leave you feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or anxious. They are the tasks that you need to pay more attention to.
Does This Have to Be Done by You?
Sometimes, there’s no way to get around it. You’re the one that has to do a task. But pause for a moment and consider whether the tasks that you put a square next to truly have to be performed by you.
For example, if shopping for groceries stresses you out, why not use a grocery service? If a work project has you overwhelmed, ask yourself if you could get a co-worker to help or bring in an intern to help you.
What Self-Care Do You Like But Never Have Time for?
Now, take a few minutes to make a list of the self-care tasks that make you feel good about yourself. These are the ones that bring a smile to your face, that energize you, and or leave you feeling pampered. You might include taking a bubble bath, reading a trashy novel, knitting, watching TV, or painting.
Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers here. If it leaves you feeling good about yourself and comforts you, then put it on your list. You deserve to be indulged so don’t let anyone tell you that your idea of “self-care” is wrong.
How Could You Practice Self-Care Once A Week?
Try to look over your to-do list and find one task you could drop. Replace this task with a self-care activity you mentioned above. Perhaps by using a grocery service to handle your shopping, you could take the afternoon off to slip into a bubble bath. Maybe you could let your spouse handle dinner so you can get a pedicure tonight.
It may not seem like a lot at first. But it is a good start. As you become used to practicing self-care once a week, it’ll get easier to look for other ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine.
What’s One Thing You Could Do to Improve Your Health Right Now?
Finally, try to look for one simple thing you could do to improve your health today. A few ideas might include…
- Going to bed 15 minutes early
- Scheduling a past-due doctor’s appointment
- Calling a friend to vent about a stressful situation
- Taking 10 minutes to practice meditation
- Planning a healthy lunch for tomorrow
- Cuddling with your pet, spouse, or child
You can pull an item from the list above or you can make your own list. You may not realize it but taking care of yourself doesn’t have to take hours. You can do it in as little as 10-15 minutes.
Your health is one of your most precious blessings. Take it seriously and protect your mind and body by saying no more frequently.