As busy moms, we try to manage everything, but sometimes the best way to manage our responsibilities is when we learn to say no to free up our schedule.
If life has seasons, the season with young kids at home is most definitely the busy season. Trying to balance tasks like cooking, chauffeuring kids to sports practice, and providing class snacks for the next party at school all while keeping your sanity intact is no small feat.
If you are feeling the overwhelm, you are in good company. As busy moms, we all have a million and one responsibilities on our plate. One thing that will help manage those responsibilities and unclutter your schedule is becoming comfortable with this one little word that has a huge impact—learn to say no.
Super Mom or Super Stressed?
It’s hard not to have the super mom complex. You know the feeling that you have to be all things to all people. The reality is we can’t do it all, and if we try we will just end up overwhelmed and stressed out.
Saying no to some things is a step towards easing the overwhelm that comes with too many responsibilities. This may come in the form of literally turning down a request for a favor or intentionally not volunteering for the next school event.
How in the world do you expect me to tell people no?
You think the only way you will be able to unclutter your schedule is by avoiding everyone in life—skipping family functions, stop checking emails, and avoid making eye contact with your kids’ teacher at school drop off. No, the solution is not to become reclusive, but to be honest with yourself and those in your life.
Being honest with yourself starts with asking three questions when you get a request for your time. Instead of giving a quick response, give yourself time to think through these things:
- What does my schedule look like that day/week?
- What can I realistically commit to?
- Do I really want to do this??
When you take a realistic look at what you have time to do, and, just as important, what you want to do, you will be better prepared to navigate all the demands on your schedule.
The hard part, especially if you are a people pleaser like I tend to be, is actually saying no. It will feel uncomfortable and weird at first, but don’t forget why you are doing this—you are prioritizing your needs and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Related posts on productivity and time management:
- 7 Simple Steps to Have a Productive Day
- The Busy Mom’s Ultimate Guide to the Most Productive Day
- How to Work Efficiently with this Simple Technique
Sorry, not sorry
It may be uncomfortable for the person on the other end too. This is where being honest with those in your life comes into play. Explain to them why you can’t do what they are asking of you and ask for their understanding.
They may be hurt or angry at first, especially if you’ve been in the habit of saying yes to everything. They should eventually come around, but don’t let this deter you. You can’t let someone else’s feelings impact your goals, and that’s exactly what you are doing when you take on too much responsibility to avoid potential hurt feelings.
This is exactly what happened to me recently with a family member who wanted my help. I wanted to help, but I was so busy I was very noncommittal about setting a time to do it. It finally came to a boiling point when the person got their feelings hurt that I was pushing them to the side.
Instead of saying yes and then pushing them off, I should have been honest with them and myself and told them I wasn’t going to have time to help. My decision to let it linger caused the situation to boil up until we were both frustrated. I would have saved so much effort if I had been honest in the first place.
How to say no
To help you avoid some of the awkwardness and frustration, try these tips to better handle the situation:
Your first instinct is probably going to be to try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you need to be assertive. Being firm might not be in your comfort zone, but it is necessary to avoid any misunderstandings in the long run. Be clear on what you are willing and able to do.
Stand your ground
The people-pleaser in you may want to give in and avoid the conflict, but the real conflict you should be avoiding is the one that keeps you frazzled and overwhelmed each day—your cluttered schedule. Stick to your gut. You know your schedule, you know your limits. Remember your goal of getting the overwhelm at bay and you will learn to say no without feeling guilty.
Why you need to learn to say no
There is often a feeling of obligation to say yes to every request that comes your way, especially if the person has helped you out in the past in some way. You may even have a strong sense of “doing the right thing”.
But what is “doing the right thing”? Is it taking on so much that you are stressed, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood? Because that is what you are doing when you take on too much. You are doing right by everyone else but yourself.
When we are constantly saying yes to the point that we are overextended, we are essentially rating everyone else’s needs higher than our own. As a mom, we are used to putting our needs last, but if you don’t get it under control, people pleasing leaves you completely burnt out and helpful to no one.
You may have avoided the conflict of saying no, but you are giving the other person the worn down, overworked, stressed out version of yourself. How good is that version going to be to them in the end?
Are you the best version of yourself?
I encourage you to learn to say no more often in your own life. We all have obligations in life that we can’t avoid (or don’t want to avoid!). For the instances that are within your control, remember not to give a quick response, be honest with whether you have the time and desire to help, and don’t forget to be direct and stand your ground.
Once you learn to say no and guard your time wisely, you will start to free up your schedule, reduce the overwhelm, and put yourself first so that you can be the best version of yourself for those you love. And things don’t even need to get awkward at school drop off.
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