"No, not interested... Don't get me wrong, it sounds great, but I just don't have time." I said.
"No?" asked a disappointed Neel - a casual acquaintance.
Neel mentioned that he recently started purchased a small plot of land and started gardening. He found it to be very enjoyable and asked me to join him and his friends so that we could all garden together.
When Neel asked me what I usually do during weekends, I said, "I read, write, spend time with my wife and kid and chill out."
Neel pointed out "So you do have time."
I said, "Yes, I do but that time is reserved for reading, writing, for my family and self-care."
Neel persisted, "Oh, come on, it's just a weekend, trust me, it'll be fun."
I pushed back and said, "Sorry, I can't."
Neel was clearly displeased but I was firm.
In the past, I would have reluctantly said, 'Yes' and then either beat myself up for not saying No or I would come up with a last minute bullshit excuse on why I couldn't make it.
Having worked on myself, I became more comfortable saying No.
And I don't say 'No' to be a jerk and I realize by saying 'No', I run the risk of being ignored, avoided and socially isolated but I also know that if I don't have firm boundaries, it's very easy to lose valuable time that I can never get back.
There are no shortages of events and special occasions...
- a housewarming ceremony here, a birthday party there, an out of the blue potluck gathering to prepare for, a local community event to volunteer - and very soon you are left wondering why you are constantly overbooked and overscheduled leaving you overwhelmed and exhausted.
By saying 'Yes' to a thing, you have to say 'No' to something else.
Did gardening sound like fun?
Yes, but saying yes to a new hobby meant sacrificing or eliminating other projects in my life and I didn't want that.
This is exactly what Warren Buffet shared when his pilot Mike Flint came to him for advice on how he could achieve his life and career goals. (I read this story in Business Insider)
Buffet asked Flint to make a list of his top 25 goals - (career goals and life goals) he wanted to achieve in his lifetime.
After careful thought and consideration, Flint made a list of his top 25 goals and showed it to Buffet.
Buffet then asked Flint to carefully pick the top 5 goals out of the 25 he had listed.
This exercise proved to be very difficult for Flint since all 25 were important for him but after considerable thought and time, he jotted down his top 5 and shared them with Buffet.
Buffet asked Flint how and when he planned to achieve his top 5 goals.
Flint replied that he would be making his top 5 goals a priority and start working on them immediately.
Buffet then asked Flint what he was planning to do with the remaining 20 goals in his list.
Flint replied that while his priority would be his top 5 goals, the remaining 20 were also important for him and that he would be working on them intermittently as and when he found time working on his top 5 goals.
At that point, Buffet strongly advised him, "No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
In her book, 'Choose Wonder Over Worry', Amber Rae shares a similar story when she was feeling pulled in all directions struggling to focus and engage in quality work.
Rae attended a workshop where a woman asked Elizabeth Gilbert, "How do you make time for everything that's important?"
"That's when Liz told us about the time in her life when she was struggling to become a writer.
She was working a few jobs, barely making ends meet, and rarely having the time and energy to write.
When she shared her predicament with a wise older woman, that woman said, "What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying that you want?"
Liz said, "You're right - I really need to start learning how to say no to things I don't want to do."
The wise woman corrected her: "No, it's much harder than that. You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don't have time and energy for everything."
You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want."
I can't agree more.
Treat your time like gold because it is.
As Susan Fussell said, “You can have anything you want... But not everything you want.”