Do you struggle to say No?

You have a busy life.  You’re the kind of person who gets things done so you have sat on numerous committees for various activities. You’re the go-to person in your workplace or community or your family when something needs to get sorted out.

You like helping people and perhaps you like things done well (i.e. your way).  So you don’t mind pitching in and helping out.

You would also like to do your own hobbies, maybe writing, painting, crafting or making music.  But there’s one problem: your life is so busy that you often don’t find the time to do things for yourself.

So the book doesn’t get written, that portraiting class – maybe it will have to be next year.  You’d love to go to an evening class and learn Spanish, or ballroom dancing or jazz piano but you don’t have the time.

The fact is you are really bad at saying No to people.  You end up with too much on your plate, and you don’t get round to doing the things which you would really love to do.


Do you really want to do these things, or would you rather get on with your art?

But here’s the thing – if you really want to advance with your creative work you are going to have to devote more time to it.  And that means saying No more often.

Sometimes we end up doing things, or going to events, that we are really not that bothered by.  We might have said yes to it a while ago without considering the effect on our diaries for the week.

It is often easier to say Yes and reluctantly go along to something, wishing you were at home doing your own thing, than say No up front.


How to say No – tip one

Don’t say Yes to anything immediately.  Say that you need to check your diary or that you need to sleep on it and you’ll let them know your answer tomorrow.

This gives you time to decide, without the pressure of being in front of the inviter or on the phone with them, whether you actually want to go, whether you are already quite busy that weekend or whether you already have a lot on in the evenings of that week.

Get back to the person later and then you can give a more considered yes or no.


How to say No – tip two

If it’s a No say it like this.  “Thank you very much for your invite to [whatever it is].  Unfortunately I cannot help/attend but I wish you luck with your event.”  For example:

  • Thanks very much for the invite to your party. Unfortunately I cannot attend but I hope you have a lovely evening.
  • Thanks very much for asking me to help out with the bank holiday festival. Unfortunately I am not able to do that this year but I wish you luck in finding the right person for the job.

Notice in the above that a reason (whether real or made up) is not given.  You simply say No, you can’t do it.

If you start giving reasons then the person who is asking you might start finding solutions to those reasons and then it is harder to say no.  For example, you have been invited to a party on Friday night but you don’t want to go because it is an hour from your house and you don’t want to be out late because you want to get up early and do some of your painting on Saturday, hangover free!  If you give the excuse that you can’t find a baby sitter (which is sort of true) what happens if the person says, “Oh don’t worry.  My niece is looking for extra cash.  She can come over and sit with the kids for you.”  If you had kept it to a simple No then you wouldn’t now be more stuck than you were before!


You have to get brutal with your diary if you want regular creative time

I am a natural busy person, one who has been a social butterfly and one of life’s doers.  However I have learned the hard way, especially as I get older, that if I over commit I get burned out. Over the years I have got much better at managing my diary. If it means that I will be busy more than two evenings in a week, I say no.  If I already have something on that weekend, I say no.  I’m also wary of having something on for too many weekends in a row.  Sometimes I just need a commitment free weekend.  By doing this I have the time and energy to write on a regular basis.


Will you disappoint people?

Will you disappoint or annoy people if you say No more often. Yes, absolutely.  Will your social life shrink?  Probably.  Will your standing as one of life’s doers fade?  Yes, and your ego will have to cope with that.

But if you are serious in advancing with your creative work then saying No is necessary.

What are you prepared to say No to in order to have the life that you say you want?


Over to you

I’ll repeat that.  What are you prepared to say No to in order to have the life that you say you want? Leave a comment and tell us about it – perhaps you could make a commitment to yourself as you write your comment!


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