As a woman with children who works in a corporate workplace, I find myself saying “yes” to much more than I should. A combination of liking to be busy, enjoying many different hobbies and activities, and a deep desire to prove myself in both the workplace and as an involved mother has proven to be detrimental to my well-being – and I know I’m not alone in this. There has been a large focus of late on the importance of knowing when to say no to certain things, so I decided to give it a try for the month of November this past year. My rules were to keep any previous engagements I had already agreed to but to say no to any additional projects outside of work.
Working a full-time corporate job, on top of writing part-time, selling my artwork on the side, and raising two elementary school-aged small humans, my life is already busy to begin with. November is the beginning of the big holiday season which can often add layer upon layer of added responsibilities and expectations onto our lives, and I was no exception. Within a four week span I was asked to and ultimately said no to: teach an art class in Greensboro, lead a girl scout troop in an art project, as well as additional PTA volunteer opportunities. On a normal day these three things are absolutely activities I would happily sign up for, but there is a big reason I chose November as the month of NO: it is already so incredibly busy. I had a craft show previously scheduled almost every weekend, in addition to seasonal work deadlines for my day job, and prepping for the holidays which included family visiting from out of town.
Had I said yes to the art class in Greensboro I would have lost at least four hours with my family on a Friday night (which is a sacred evening in our home – we celebrate every Friday with pizza and movies), not to mention the time it would take to plan the class and prepare the materials. When I broke down what I would make from this class, was it worth my time and most importantly was it worth the time lost with my family? While I love doing volunteer work and teaching children about the love of art, was it worth the lost time with my family when we were already so busy this month to volunteer with the girl scout troop? Was this something that could be done another month? (Spoiler alert: I rescheduled that one for February and it was not a big deal at all, although it made me feel uncomfortable to have to counter offer another date). Our PTA has hundreds of members, surely me saying no to a volunteer opportunity does not mean that nobody else will be able to sign up. The world will not stop turning if we don’t say yes to everything.
To be completely honest with you all, I was not as successful at my month of no as I wanted to be since I had already signed up for so much before the month began, but the failures that I did have taught me about what not to do in the future. I should not have said yes to four craft shows in one month; this was a strain on myself, my business, and my family. Now I know my limits on how many weekend obligations I can reasonably sign up for without becoming spread too thin. Something I have implemented since this experiment is blocking out free weekends where nothing can be scheduled, and sticking to that plan. Another interesting effect I noticed within this experiment was how uncomfortable I was at the beginning with saying no, and how that has gotten easier the longer I have been doing it. Not only has it been easier since the beginning of November to say no to things, I have also stopped explaining my reasoning as often. No is a complete sentence; you do not need to justify your reasons to anybody except yourself.