Throughout my life, I’ve always identified as a “yes” person. I love saying “yes” to new opportunities and meeting new people, and I feel confident I can make a different if I’m added to a committee or am placed in a leadership position.
The problem with being a “yes,” person, however, is that saying “yes” too often can lead to burnout.
At one time in my life, I was the director of marketing for a TV company, the homeroom mom for both of my kid’s classes, a member of the advisory council at our church, in charge of fundraising for our school auction, and an executive of a women’s organization for networking.
All of these positions required a great deal of my time, and caused me to be spread so thin that I started to neglect time with my family. I was so busy saying “yes” and helping out that when I finally got home at the end of the day, I was exhausted. My cup was empty, and I didn’t have much to give to the people I love the most. I had to ask myself what good it was doing that I was organizing and helping out at all of these different organizations, but neglecting the things that matter the most to me?
People in my circle would reach out and say, “You would be great for this!” or, “We really need your help with that.” I felt like it was my responsibility to help, and I knew I could actually make a difference using my skillset. But my overextending myself backfired — I started to resent going to meetings, and I lost sleep stressing over how busy I was and how I wasn’t seeing my kids enough.
I came to the realization that being so involved wasn’t doing me, or my family, any good. I started to set serious boundaries with my time.
I still find myself slipping back into my old habit of saying “yes” to everything sometimes, but then I catch myself and ask: “Does this really align with who I am, and what my goals are moving forward? Does it line up with my 10 life rules?”
At my job now, I have strict hours for setting appointments: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., no exceptions. I used to take calls on the weekends because I had a client whose weekdays were so busy that they could only connect on Saturdays. Since they paid me a lot of money, I felt like I needed to accommodate them. Sp, every Saturday morning, I would dread the call. I’d go outside and join the Zoom call so I didn’t wake up my family. I realized that this process brought me zero joy, and took away from the things I actually wanted to do on Saturdays, like running, reading or practicing yoga.
Eventually, I decided to part ways with this client because the demands became too much, especially on nights and weekends. I decided that I didn’t care about the money, and the extra time I was spending catering to their needs just wasn’t worth it. Working with them went against my rules against working nights and weekends. After all, I’m an entrepreneur, and the whole reason I started my own business was so I could work only when I wanted to. I had to set a professional boundary so I could make sure I was allocating my free time where I really wanted it to go.
What are you doing in your life that isn’t bringing you joy?
Maybe it’s a task at work that you hate doing or aren’t good at, but you’ve found yourself doing it out of necessity. For me, this task was accounting. I despise accounting and am terrible at it — my brain just isn’t wired that way! I realized that trying to handle my own accounting wasn’t bringing me joy, and it was taking my energy away from other important things. I got help — I hired an amazing accountant and financial advisor who handles all things financial for me now. A huge weight was lifted off of me when I finally said “no” to accounting. It freed me up to spend my energy in more productive ways.
As entrepreneurs, we often want to chase every idea that comes our way because it might be the “golden tiket” that makes us millions. In reality, these ideas might just be distractions that keep you from your one big thing. As a boss, I often say “yes” to things my team proposes either because I’ve always done them, or think I may be good at them, but this doesn’t mean I should actually do them. There’s no way to scale things up when your hands are already full. You must learn to say “no,” even to your team.
A great way to figure out which things you may need to start saying “no” to is by making a list of your week and what you do. Make sure every hour of the day is accounted for. Then, add a star next to the items that are necessary — work, your kid’s basketball game, appointments, etc. Then, look at the items that aren’t must-haves and ask yourself if they bring you joy. Analyze how much time they’re taking up in your life, and if they help you arrive at your end goal. You might be surprised at how many things on your list you don’t like and don’t need to be doing.
Successful entrepreneurs are very selective with how they spend their time. Before you say “yes” to another meeting or partnership, ask yourself these four questions:
- Will doing this energize me?
- Do the benefits of this proposition outweigh the costs?
- What is my intuition telling me?
- Will this opportunity help me get closer to my goal?
Saying “no” will free you up to say “yes” when the right opportunity comes along!