Four Simple Tips for Saying No to Overcommitted Schedules
If words were people, “Yes” would be the fun, popular one. “Yes” wears cute clothes, and is always up for an adventure. “No” would be grumpy and stubborn, donning an argyle sweater-vest in August. Nobody likes “No.” Such a downer.
But perceptions don’t always match reality. Sometimes “no” is actually the knight in shining armor, rescuing us from the stress of overcommitted schedules. A firm “no” gives us the time and freedom to tend to the yeses already on our plate.
We must opt out of good things every day for the sake of our families, schedules and sanity. The hardest part is mustering the courage to produce the tiny word from our mouths. We don’t want to be a crochety-sweater vest. We want to be fun, and we love to feel needed.
How do we know if and when to say no?
You’re asked to bake four dozen cupcakes for the PTA meeting…but you’re juggling three small kids, a part time job and your parents are about to arrive for a weekend visit. The PTA president looks at you expectantly, waiting for your answer. You want to help, but the timing is bad… how can you say no? So you don’t. You eek out a high-pitched “Yes! Definitely! Chocolate or vanilla?” Your heart sinks as you realize you will be baking into the wee hours of the morning. “Doesn’t matter,” she replies, “just as long as they are gluten-free and sugar-free! Thanks!”
Shoulda said no. But you didn’t. So instead, your husband and kids will have to endure your griping and moodiness for the next three days, as you try to rearrange an already packed-schedule to balance one more thing.
No doubt you’ve felt the pressure to say yes before. How do you say no when you are put on the spot? Here are some helpful tips:
- Counter-offer. You’re asked to host next month’s book club. You want to say yes, but you also know that next month is your husband’s busiest at work. He’ll be working overtime and while book club technically falls on his night off, would he feel loved and cared for with the added stress of hosting a group that night? If you decide it wouldn’t be a good “yes,” try a counter-offer. “I would love to host—at some point. I don’t think the timing for next month will work for my family’s schedule, but after the next three months, our availability is much more open. Could I host then?”
- Give me a minute. The church youth pastor wants you to lead a small group of high school students. You love the idea, but with several small kids at home, you wonder if the season is right. Maybe it will be an opportunity for your kids to bond with Grandma and Grandpa that night? Or maybe the timing is not right. Try this: “Thank you for thinking of me! I’d like to take some time to think about this. When do you need an answer?” This is a response I have had to practice. But you need time to consider whether another commitment would be a good “yes,” or a stressed “yes.”
- Check with your husband. This is a great way to give yourself some more time to consider what’s being asked of you. Even if your husband doesn’t have strong preferences, bouncing your thoughts off him will help you make a good decision for your family. Often a loving husband is more attuned to our stress levels than we are. “That sounds fun! I will check with my husband and get back to you.”
- When you know it’s a definite no…but feel funny saying so. Here are some phrases you can say with a smile when you’re asked if you want to train for a half marathon in the desert or enter the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest:
– Thanks for thinking of me, but I wouldn’t be a great fit for that.
– That’s not something I have capacity for right now, but I appreciate the ask.
– I’m not a great match for that activity, but you know who might love it—our mutual friend, Sally!
– I’m not able to take that on right now, unfortunately.
Remember, the God who spoke the earth into existence does not need your efforts to accomplish His work. But He sure can use you! If you are overcommitted, burnt out and snapping at your loved ones, it might be a hint that you’re trying to please people more than God.
Take regular inventory of your calendar alongside your husband, noting which commitments stir your affections for God and for people, versus which commitments steal your affections for God and for people. With a bevy of extra curriculars, book clubs and service projects to choose from, we would do well to remember that our ultimate purpose is to please God. He did not put us on earth to work ourselves into a panic attack. Love God, and love people. If adding a commitment hinders your ability to do either of those things, it might be the perfect opportunity to say “no.”
How have YOU said “No” in the past? Did it turn out better than you thought it would?
Molly DeFrank is a mom and foster mom to five kids under ten. She writes about faith and motherhood—the hilarious and the hard; the fun and the maddening; the beauty and the blunders. She loves to share encouragement and laughter with women just like her. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, or her website, www.mollydefrank.com.