Just Say No! You Won’t Die, and the Earth Will Continue to Spin.

 

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Anyone who knows me very well might be laughing about the fact that I am writing a blog about saying “No“.  In my last blog entry, “The Paralysis of Being Overwhelmed”, I discussed the reasons we can get overwhelmed, how to break out of that state, and how to prevent it in the future. But honestly, the reality is that I may talk a good game, but I get in over my head on a far too regular basis. The main reason I get overwhelmed is that I am terrible at saying “No”. My family knows this all too well, which is the reason a magnet with the words “Stop me before I volunteer again” is on my refrigerator. Eric bought it for me years ago hoping it would make a difference. I see it every day. I quote it. But too often I don’t heed it.

There have been whole books written about this topic. I haven’t necessarily read them because my life is too full of things I have said “Yes” to that I probably shouldn’t have. Hence the problem. 🙂 However, I did find a couple of well-written articles that phrased things better than I could, so I’d like to share a few passages from them.

In the article “Say No So You Can Say Yes”from the website Zen Habits (https://zenhabits.net/say-yes/),  Leo Babauta writes:

 “Saying yes is not really saying yes. 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? Want to go to every meeting, every event, every coffee? Want to do every project that comes along? Your days will be crazy, and you’ll have no rest, and what’s more, you’ll likely not meet all your obligations…Saying Yes to everything means you’re not really saying Yes — it means you’re not setting priorities. You’re not making a serious commitment. You’re not being conscious about your life.”

Wow! That last part really speaks to me. If I say “Yes” to everything, I’m not setting priorities. I’m not being conscious about my life. Leo Babauta suggests that we adopt an idea by writer Derek Sivers. I am posting his short article in its entirety because I like it so much. I like the simplicity of his thinking. It is an excellent example of being conscious about your life. I apologize in advance for the cursing, but it’s only one word, and in my opinion, it’s worth looking over to get the point. Plus, “It’s my blog, and I’ll cuss if I want to” (cue the 1965 Lesley Gore song, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”). By the way, if you want to watch a short video clip of this same content with super cute animation, click on this link: https://sivers.org/hellyeah.

“Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.

If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’about something, say ‘no’.

When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say ‘HELL YEAH!’

Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about it, say ‘no.’

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”

Now back to Leo Babauta, who brings it all together and gives us a practical way out of the mess we are in when we are overcommitted:

“So start by saying No to the obligations you’ve built up but don’t really want to do. Make a list of all your commitments (really do it, it only takes 5 minutes) and mark the 4-5 that are most important. Say No to the rest — actually call or email people and let them know you can’t do it. Create room in your life. Some breathing space. Some time for what’s most important — your important work, the things that you love, the people you love. Then start saying Hell Yes to those things. Then it’s like magic.”

Alright my fellow Type-A over-committed friends, are you ready to make your list? Will you really commit to saying “no” to a few things? I’ll make you a deal. I will if you will.

If this post speaks to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts, your plans, or your questions. We are all on this crazy ride together, so we need to help each other out.

 

 

 

 

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The Paralysis of Being Overwhelmed

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Does this blog title and picture seem all too familiar? “I’m so overwhelmed!” is a phrase I use more often than I’d like to admit. And when I’m in that state of being overwhelmed, I have a long list of things to get accomplished, but nothing is getting done. I am paralyzed into inactivity, which only makes things worse. The list gets longer, I get more frustrated and hopeless, and my mood deteriorates quickly. If you can relate, read on. I am hoping I can share something that can help both of us!

First of all, obviously things would be much better if we could avoid being overwhelmed in the first place, right? So how can we prevent this from happening in the future? I believe there are multiple factors that contribute to being overwhelmed. For me, 98.37594%  of the time (give or take), the reason is that I am simply overcommitted. I am a high energy person who thrives on a busy schedule and loves to get involved in multiple activities. I love everything I do, and I hate turning down something that I might enjoy. The problem is, everyone has limits to their time and energy, and when we take on too much, even if each thing is enjoyable, we exhaust our reserves!

My husband Eric bought me a refrigerator magnet with the quote, “Stop me before I volunteer again”. Even right now as I glance over to my refrigerator, it occupies a prominent place, and I see it every day. But too often, I don’t take it to heart. Another image that comes to mind is a sculpture I saw many years ago at an art exhibit in Seattle. The sculpture depicted a woman spinning a collection of plates using both hands, both feet, and her head. There were more plates than anyone could be expected to keep spinning, so understandably, she looked a little out of control. I remember thinking that that was how I felt a lot of times, and it can be, well, overwhelming! If this describes you, please join me in raising your right hand and repeating after me: “I pledge to be more aware of my limits. I will learn to say, ‘No’. I will enlist the help of my friends and family in setting boundaries. My worth is not defined by the number of my activities. I will get the rest I need.” I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point. Let’s really commit to this, all of us! Overachievers unite!

Perhaps you have another reason for being overwhelmed. You may be in a season of life that is just difficult, whether that involves caring for young children or aging parents, working multiple jobs, or many other circumstances. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and you just have to do the best you can given the situation. Whatever your reason for being overwhelmed, it’s not a fun place to be, and the best thing to do now is figure out a way out of it (or perhaps just a way to cope until your situation changes).

Here are a few strategies that have helped me when I’m overwhelmed. I hope they will benefit you as well:

  • Make a list and prioritize it. I have started dividing my task lists into High, Medium, and Low Priority. I try to focus first on the high priority items, even though the others are often the ones I would rather do. Your list may be really long, but at least you will have some direction.
  • Just do something! Occasionally all it takes for me to break out of that paralysis is to take some kind of action. Once I get going, I quickly build up some momentum, and then “success breeds success.”
  • Don’t obsess over being perfect. Remember the mantra, “Done is better than perfect.” I’m not suggesting you do shoddy work, but don’t let your fears of doing a task perfectly prevent you from getting started. The quicker you get going on it, the quicker you will finish.
  • Delegate if you can. Hand over one of those many plates you are trying to spin. Overachievers often get in a mess because we want things to be perfect, and we are convinced that only we can do the task perfectly. Sometimes we just have to let other people lighten our load. And even if the work they do isn’t perfect, repeat the mantra above. 🙂
  • Reward yourself for small accomplishments. After you’ve knocked one of those High Priority items off your list, take a short break. Pat yourself on the back. Pace yourself.
  • Be kind to yourself. Prioritize getting the rest you need above marking items off the list. This is a tough one for me (just ask my family and close friends). If we don’t take care of ourselves, we are not going to do our best work anyway! We will likely take out our frustrations on those we love (again, just ask my family and close friends). And we may end up with any number of stress-related illnesses.

I hope at least one other person besides me needed to read this one.

Next week, I will expound on this topic by giving more practical advice about how to prevent being overwhelmed. Specifically, I will discuss how to say ‘No’ and how to prioritize. Boy do I need more of that!

Now, excuse me while I work on my prioritized list and reward myself for getting this blog written. 🙂