Saying No to Busyness, Exhaustion and Overwhelm

Yaquina lighthouse - saying no

“Saying Yes to everything means you really have time for nothing. You can’t possibly say Yes to everything, because where will you fit it all?”

– Leo Babauta

Most of us like to say yes to fun activities and worthy causes, but too much yes is a problem. Despite the current affection for busyness,[1]  saying no is an important life skill.

There’s a quote that goes around the Internet: “No one is busy in this world. It’s all about priorities.” Try telling that to a single parent working three jobs to get by.

But many of us do sometimes spend our time mindlessly, without considering what really matters. Pretty obvious when you look at the statistics for how many hours a day people watch TV or use social media.

If this resonates with you, it’s time to prioritize. Make two lists. One list for the things that are most important to you, and one for the things you spend the most time on.

Now compare the two lists. How does the way you actually spend your time compare to what’s most important to you? To prioritize your life, you’ll want to try to make the two lists align as much as possible.

“Setting priorities always involves sacrifice. Your time is limited.”

– Danny Kohn

The thing is, sometimes you can’t say yes even to everything that’s a fairly high priority.

Maybe you have a lot of family commitments now, and you don’t have time to volunteer. Or maybe one of your friends needs help with cooking and house cleaning after surgery, so you aren’t able to fit in your daily run.

The reality is that for many of us, there just aren’t enough hours in the week to earn a living, enjoy our families, hang out with our friends, read, exercise, keep our homes halfway clean, take part in community activities, spend time with our pets, help out acquaintances who need assistance with chores or errands, and volunteer for every one of our favorite causes.

So, sometimes you have to cut back on activities you find pleasurable and meaningful.

Trying to decide what to cut and how much is often difficult, though. I know, because I’m struggling with it now.

We’ve already downsized and simplified, but when robotics season is in full swing and a book deadline looms, things get crazy, especially when I may have gotten just a wee bit carried away with volunteer activities.

Since basically everything I’m doing is a “top” priority, I’m trying to cut back on activities without saying no. Without fully eliminating anything. As part of this process, I’ve decided to post here only once a week instead of twice.

Is saying no easy for you? What have you said no to lately?

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[1] “Long gone are the days when a life of material excess and endless leisure time signified prestige. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, Americans increasingly perceive busy and overworked people as having high status.” Lack of leisure: Is busyness the new status symbol?