When my son was only a few months old, I made a vow to myself that I would learn, and have the courage, to say no to things.
Now that he’s three, with another one on the way, I am revisiting that same vow.
Up until the point of being able to say no, I thoroughly enjoyed saying yes; I love doing the work. I was constantly on the go. Networking, building, creating, being involved with various groups and committees.
It’s something that’s very fulfilling for me. I enjoy meeting new, inspiring, high-energy, people. I like starting and building new projects.
The one consistent thing with all commitments is time.
We all have the same twenty-four hours in each day. Life is a bunch of choices and we have the choice on how we spend that precious time.
When I vowed to myself that I would begin to say no to things, what I was really doing was making more time for my family (family is number one to me and always will be).
When you take a step back and look at your day, if your family is at the top of your priority list, it’s almost scary to see the number of hours (lack of hours) we actually have together.
Doing some quick math I figure, that with my own family’s typical daily schedule, we spend a total of six hours of each day together. During that time there’s bath, meals, dishes, etc. It’s scary!
It completely breaks my heart. I don’t want to look back fifteen years from now and say I wish I would have been home more and spent more time with my children when they were young.
So part of this vow on saying no was really making room to spend as much valuable time with my family as possible.
I don’t believe in work-life balance. I look at it as a blend, it’s all life.
The big thing I learned, thus far, is that it’s not about being involved with everything, but rather involving yourself with the right things.
For me to say yes to things, I now prioritize those commitments, projects and opportunities.
In doing so, I ask myself these 5 questions before saying yes:
1. Where can I add the most value?
With time being my most prized resource, I want to make sure that what I am committing to is something I can add value to. Something that I can leave my mark on and make a difference to those involved; either now or down the road.
I look for things where I can offer my unique abilities.
2. Where can I gain the most?
This is where I get selfish. When thinking about what I want to commit to I look at the projects where I would gain the most.
Meaning, I never want to be the smartest person in the room. So I’m continuously seeking opportunities where I can learn the most about the things I want to learn more about.
At that same time, while I am adding value and providing my unique abilities, I want to be consuming other people’s unique abilities; those different from mine and particularly, the abilities that I lack completely.
This question may sound one-sided but I always commit to adding value first. This is a “givers-gain” mindset. Give to something where I can add the most value while gaining tremendous knowledge in the areas I lack from people way smarter than me.
3. What kind of people will I be surrounding myself with?
The people we surround ourselves with affects us tremendously. They affect our drive, motivation, beliefs, energy. They ultimately affect our output, as a person, as our work, as our art; both good and bad.
I want to be around the people who I aspire to be myself. I want to surround myself with highly motivated, energetic, intelligent, like-minded people.
4. Is it something that makes me feel good?
This is where I align commitment with passion, purpose and my heart.
This feeling will drive a lot of the other things going on in my life. It will affect the other people I am closest to. If it becomes just another task on my checklist, not only will I begin to feel the wear, but those around me will sense it and feel it as well.
I want to align it as closely to my core, my DNA, as possible.
5. Am I able to commit 100%?
When I say yes to something, I mean it. I want to give it my best 100% of the time. I want to give it my undivided attention and the attention that it needs and deserves; and ultimately, the attention that I promised.
When I noticed myself saying yes to everything I began to see the quality and productivity go down. I was spreading myself too thin.
We are wired to be able to think we can do it all. We may be able to, some make it work really well, but I can almost certainly say something is being sacrificed.
For most of us, we need to learn to say no.
Eric Ungs is founder of the Unless You Care Project. He writes and coaches about leading a life of intentional self growth, nudging you to let go; to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and honest with yourself so you can give your best self to others. Author of 10 Incredible Ways to Live a Fulfilling and Joyful Life ebook. Connect with Eric at UYCproject.com and on Twitter.