Feeling Overwhelmed?

Here’s how to say “NO” without feeling guilty.

“NO” is a complete sentence!

When we say “NO” is a complete sentence we are talking about declining obligations that are imposed upon us by others. It is a difficult thing to do. This is about setting boundaries for yourself.  For a two-letter word, “NO” certainly holds a lot of power. Can you think of any other two-letter word that can be a complete sentence, a declaration and an exercise in standing up for yourself?

So why is it so hard for most of us to say?

We often don’t say “NO” because we feel guilty.

As women, coming to the aid of another human being is wired into us and further reinforced through cultural upbringing.  In other words, we can’t help but want to help—a crying baby, the sick and defenseless, someone bitten by bad luck. So many situations arouse natural sympathy, and…our parents raised us to be kind and thoughtful on top of that!  But there are limits, especially in today’s world where there are so many demands on our attention and time.

There is an art to saying “NO.”

Saying “yes” when you need to say “NO” causes burnout. You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time. Many of the women I coach and work with, who are the most overwhelmed, simply don’t know how or aren’t willing to set reasonable boundaries for themselves, and so end up committing to much more than they can reasonably accomplish.

But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the art of saying “NO” — and set healthy boundaries for yourself.

Say “NO” and mean it.

A “NO” that sounds like a “Yes” is not a “NO.” Learn to say “NO” clearly, concisely and completely. When you say “NO” there is no reason to explain, clarify or debate the reasoning behind your decision. Whenever someone makes a request of you, before you say yes, think about whether or not you can actually deliver on the commitment you’d be making, without having to drop other commitments or leaving yourself burnt out and overwhelmed.

If a “yes” would put you over the line, let the requester know and respectfully decline. And even if the requester is your boss or your client, you can still say a version of “NO”: just frame it as “that would be difficult, given my current priorities; let’s find another way to get this done.”

Three tips for setting your boundaries:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments mean less time with family, who are more important to me than anything. Determine your top 3 non-negotiables in life and how you fit them into your daily/weekly schedule.
  3. Give yourself 24 hours to respond to requests to give you time to evaluate, consider and make the best choice for YOU.

What will you say “NO” to this week?

Women in leadership and management positions seem to be particularly squeezed. My passion is to work with you to set boundaries and learn to say “NO” in a powerful, impactful way and get you back to mental, physical and emotional well-being.

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