Is it time to say NO?

accountability growth Mar 21, 2024
sticky notes illustration of saying no to things

Several years ago, I heard a sermon that was all about keeping margins. If you picture a piece of paper, it’s easy to visualize the margins around the edges of the page. They are blank. Empty space. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the sermon except that the pastor said to make sure you have margins in your life. In other words, don’t fill up every square inch of the page. Don’t have every minute of your day scheduled.

I remember him asking the question “If someone called you up and needed help, would you have time to help? Could you help them without the rest of your day spinning out of control?”  As I said, I don’t remember much else about that sermon, but when I look at my calendar and see all the color-coded appointments, meetings, and tasks that I’ve scheduled, I remember that sermon. I think to myself, “Are the margins still clear?” We’re all busy.

We all have things that ‘have’ to get done. We all have things that we need to do because ‘no one else can’ or because ‘it’s just easier if I do it myself.’ Sometimes it’s actually because we want to avoid conflict,  we feel pressured into saying yes, or we want to please those around us.

But there are things that you should really say no to. 

It’s hard to say no. But at the same time, sometimes we need to say no. Saying no can be healthy for us. 

Saying no can prevent us from being overly exhausted and burnt out. 

When we constantly take on more and more, we don’t have the capacity to give ourselves fully to each task.

We get overwhelmed by the demands we’ve placed on ourselves and can no longer function at our best. Plus, we can start to get resentful of all the things we have to do, even if we know they are good things (and sometimes they are even things that we want to do!)

Saying no allows someone else the opportunity to say yes.

I know this one sounds odd at first, but if you always say yes to things, then people will come to you first. They know you will say yes to whatever it is they need. Perhaps there are others in your workplace or community that would better fill that need but no one has ever asked them. By you saying no, you give them the opportunity to say yes. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

Saying no helps build healthy boundaries and healthy relationships.

Setting clear limits and sticking to them will help you maintain a healthy work/life balance. For example, if you say, ‘No, I’m not going to check my email on the weekend,’ then your co-workers will know that they shouldn’t expect a response from you on a Sunday afternoon. But once you start to compromise on your boundaries, it becomes easier and easier to move them until you find you’re doing all sorts of things that maybe weren’t in your initial job description or are taking more time than you have. 

What things should you say no to?

 It’s not too late to take a look at your schedule and your list of commitments and re-evaluate where your time and energy are going. It’s okay to stop being part of a group or volunteering for an event. It’s okay to say no to coaching your child’s sports team this year. It’s okay to say no to picking up an overtime shift at work.  Just because you say no now doesn’t mean you’ll always say no.

Our roles and responsibilities change over time, and the amount of energy we have to give to different things changes. Overcome your fear of saying no. Establish your boundaries and stick to them. Leave the margins empty. Leave space for your family. Leave space for rest. 

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