Positive Habits

Learning to say no

saying no

I think I’m a bit of a Yes Man.

I take on nearly every project that comes my way, with barely a minute’s hesitation. 

Write something for a friend’s website? Sure. Edit some photos for you? Why not. Create a complex video for a charity? Absolutely.

I think deep down, I’m afraid of disappointing people. Or I’m nervous that turning down something now means I’m depriving myself of something else further down the line.

But the truth is, I often pile on much more than I can handle. I fill every minute of my free time with projects. And I need to give more time for myself.

A video for a charity I was creating as a freebie recently spiralled out of control. What started as a few hours’ work quickly became a lot of time spent learning new After Effects techniques and endless rounds of amends.

Never one to turn down an opportunity to please my clients, I went along with it all. 

Although I appreciate the new skills it taught me, I certainly don’t appreciate that it took up every spare minute of my weekend.

So I need to learn to say no. I need to spend my spare time resting, not piling on additional work. I need to give myself time for me, time to sit and enjoy the stillness and recharge my batteries. Unless I’m getting paid for it and I’m in dire financial straits, there’s no value in clouding my mind with the anxieties of additional deadlines.

If I’m going to take on a project I need to think very carefully before saying yes. So, when presented with a new project, these are my follow-up questions to myself:

  1. Why should I take on this project?
  2. Will this teach me something useful?
  3. How long will this take me?
  4. How would I spend my time if I didn’t do this?
  5. Am I actively disrupting something by turning this down?

The last one is probably the most important. It’s easy to be selfish by taking on things that will only benefit me in some way, and that’s not how I want to live my life.

If a friend needs help moving a sofa because they have a broken foot, my answer will be a very quick yes.

If, however, somebody wants me to make a video for them for free, I will need to think very carefully about the pros and cons. At the very least, I need to clearly say “I can spare three hours to do this,” and be strict with that time.

By saying no, I’ll be able to spend more time on truly important projects. The things I want to be doing.

Time is valuable, and and I should start treating it with respect.

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