How to say no to create more “me-time” and why you shouldn’t feel bad about it

by Feb 18, 2019Healthy living, Simple living

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”
-Paolo Coelho

I’m sure anyone reading this quote would agree with it, and yet most of us find it so hard to say no.

I’m also guilty as charged! I’ve always been such a people pleaser, for the simple fact that I hate conflict and I don’t want people to think badly of me. But since a few months that has finally changed. I really set my priorities straight because I just have so little time available next to my full time job. And I’ve actually had people tell me that they respect it of me that I set such clear boundaries for when it comes to my time. It has been a really freeing process for me with a lot less stress, that I decided to write a post for you guys on how to say no to create more time for yourself and your goals.

Saying no is an art in itself and each situation may require a different approach. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “the perfect way to say no”. But it is still necessary for your own sake to sometimes say no to others. And with practice you’ll surely get better at it. Here are a few of my tips:

1. Understand your mindset

First things first. To get started, I believe it’s important to first have a look at your mindset. Try to understand why it’s so hard for you to say no to others. Are you for instance afraid of conflict or lost opportunities? Or perhaps you always want to help people, because you want everybody to like you? Or are you afraid of being rude? Doing things out of fear, will not do much good for your wellbeing. Surely, everyone has their own reasons, but oftentimes you will find little basis for them.

This goes hand in hand with the thinking that we don’t have a choice to say yes or no. This is not true. We always have a choice, otherwise it wouldn’t be a question. This doesn’t mean that you always have to say no. It just means that you can decide for yourself, and thus choose what the answer will be for that situation.

When trying to change your mindset, it’s important to evaluate your own needs. Saying no more often will help you to take better care of yourself and your needs. With this approach, it will become easier to say no without feeling bad about it. Because why would you feel guilty about taking care of yourself? Shouldn’t everyone be taking good care of themselves? This does not mean that you are selfish. This means that you love yourself enough to take care of your own needs.

What has helped me quite well, is to try to keep in mind what you will get in return if you say no sometimes: more time for yourself, your goals, your hobbies, your family, your health. More time for things that are truly important to you. That brings us to the next tip: setting your priorities straight.

2. Set your priorities straight

With so many requests and wishes out there, it’s obviously impossible to say yes to everything. There are only 24 hours in a day, so it’s important that we carefully guard our priorities. Whenever you decide on an answer, make sure that you keep your priorities in mind. If you say yes to every little thing that is not important to you, it will steal a lot of your time. Time that otherwise could have been spent on things that matter to you.

To be clear to yourself what your priorities are, question yourself what your goals are and how important they are to you right now. For some people that could be eating healthy or exercising regularly. And for other people that could be being a great parent and spending more time with their family. There is no right or wrong answer here.

Example situations where you can say no if your goal is to live a healthy lifestyle are as follows: perhaps you value eating healthy so much, that you can’t say yes to every restaurant invite all the time. Or you can say no to eating a cake when you’re at a birthday party. Another example is to say no to meeting up if you already have a training scheduled on that time. If this goal is really important to you, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying no to such requests sometimes.

Others can’t decide for you what you value and prioritize. Just make sure that you are fully aware of your own priorities and act accordingly. It’s really powerful and freeing to be conscious about how you live your life and to decide for yourself which things you will allow into your space and time. You have the right to say no to a request that stands in the way of your own priorities.

3. Create clear boundaries

In order to say no more often, it’s also important to set clear boundaries for yourself and for others. In this way it becomes clearer what your priorities are so that you can take care of your own needs. Like I just said: there are only 24 hours in a day. So you need to draw a line somewhere. By creating these boundaries, you can control your own time. You can control what your day looks like and how it’s filled up. By honouring your boundaries, you’ll notice that with every no, you say yes to something that’s truly important to you: the priorities you just listed. Everyone has the right to do so. And after some practice, you’ll be able to get back into the driver’s seat of your life. Doesn’t that sound fantastic?

Of course not everyone will always be happy to hear a no, but it’s not your “job” to please each and every person out there. Make sure you know your boundaries. And make sure they are clear for others as well. It’s important to stand your ground. Because if your boundaries aren’t clear to others, then some people will get confused. Or they will outright take advantage of you to feed their own goals and agenda. Know your limits and make sure others understand and respect them too.

4. Compare the pros and cons of a request

With some requests that you get, it’s perhaps not immediately clear to you if it stands in the way of your priorities, or if it crosses a boundary. In that case it’s a good idea to make a list of pros and cons before answering. A few examples of questions that you can ask yourself:

-Does it add value to you? Or is it mostly to help someone else?
-Does it also feed into your goals and priorities? Or mostly into theirs?
-Is it absolutely necessary? Or is it just easier for them?

It might for instance be that it’s not absolutely necessary that you do it. And that it feeds a bit more into their goals, than into your goals. But it still provides some value for you. In cases like this, compare the pros and the cons. And even if there are indeed some benefits, it’s often still better to say no if the cons clearly weigh more.

5. Give an alternative suggestion

In some cases, you might want to give people an alternative suggestion. But, it’s very important that you don’t do this to people-please. For instance, because you are afraid to give them a full “no”, even though you really want to.

A good example would be the following: Someone (perhaps a friend, a family member, or a colleague) wants to meet up with you exactly when you have a training scheduled. Just politely say no for that particular moment. And if you really want to meet up with this person, offer an alternative day and time where you don’t have to miss a training. In that way, everyone wins and both people’s wishes are met.
You’ll be surprised how flexible people can be if you use this approach!

6. Don’t make saying no too complicated and lengthy

What really helps when trying to say no more often, is to not over-complicate things. Try to start on a positive note, but keep it short and to the point. There is absolutely no need to over-explain yourself, to make excuses, or to even lie. You are entitled to your own reasons, and it is no one else’s business if those reasons are good enough for them.

Simply decline in a pleasant and short way. In that way people will consider it polite. And without a lengthy explanation or justification, you won’t confuse them or give them a chance to debate with your reasons to try to persuade you.

An example response would be: “As much as I would love to help you, I’m really too busy at the moment to do what you’re asking of me”. Or anything along those lines. If they are trying to pressure you into a different answer, politely stand your ground and repeat your first response. It is your time and your choice. And you are entitled to take care of your own needs.

7. Don’t worry about being unpopular

We often say yes to people so that they will like us and won’t think badly of us. But people actually respect an honest answer and will respect you more if you set clear boundaries for yourself instead of being a pushover.

People pleasers want to avoid conflict and disappointment of others at all costs, including their own needs and priorities. But it’s important for you to understand that saying no doesn’t mean you are creating conflict. It just means that you insist on your needs and boundaries.

Sure there will always be people that won’t take no for an answer, but that has more to do with their own issues, than you being a “bad person”. Question yourself if you want someone in your life who puts such unfair pressure on you and who probably only thinks of their own gains, rather than what’s in it for you too.

Popularity should simply not be more worth than feeling stressed and overwhelmed all the time. With so many people and so many different personalities out there – each with their own wishes and goals- it’s just not possible to always please everyone.

I just said it, and I will say it again: if you stay true to yourself and set clear boundaries, people will respect you for that. They will respect it much more, than being a door mat who doesn’t take care of herself.

Wrapping up:

Saying no is really an art in itself. It’s definitely not easy and as with everything in life, it takes practice. But your future you will thank you!

Saying no is an essential form of self-care.

It’s really important to understand that if you want to create a life of your own, it is vital to control the things that keep you busy in your daily schedule.

When you start to get better at saying no, things that will follow are: a lot less stress and overwhelm, more respect, and last but certainly not least: more time for the things that truly matter to you!

About Me

My name is Lenore and it is my mission to present women with tips and tricks on how to create a healthier lifestyle, but also on how to live more sustainably where less is more. So if you're looking for just that, you're in the right place!