Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Power of No

sw_piano_6What happens when you want to start taking piano lessons and art classes?

Well, if you’re Elizabeth Craig’s daughter, unfortunately it means that you’ll have to give up other after-school activities to take on new ones.

I decided a couple of years ago that there are absolutely wonderful moms out there who drive their children to multiple activities daily….but that I’m not one of them. :) So I ‘just say no’ to making my schedule even busier than it already is.

There’s a limited amount of extracurricular driving that I’m willing to take on at this point. I’ve got my son’s guitar teacher coming out to the house and I’m looking for a piano teacher to do the same.

What’s more, I think that children, when they’re overextended, get just as stressed out as we do. I know that I can’t take a look at my calendar without wincing and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Not everyone takes on too much…but I have a feeling that most of the writers in the online community do.

Many of us are blogging 3 or more times a week, networking on different social media platforms, volunteering for fundraisers online or in the community, working day jobs, helping care for our children or aging parents, and keeping house.

All of these things are important. But we frequently end up feeling stretched thin, even with all the things we need to do and want to do.

One thing that I’m learning to do (and it’s been really hard, because I’m a people-pleaser) is to say no to additional responsibilities.

I have to protect my time pretty fiercely at this point, because there’s just not very much of it to start out with. Usually, the kind of request that I get is for serving on a committee or a volunteer project at the school, etc. Again, these are very worthwhile causes. And I do help out a lot…but unfortunately, there aren’t really enough people who can volunteer—so the same people tend to be picked over and over again.

Saying no:

It’s much easier for me to nicely refuse (to be part of a supper club, serve on the PTA board, be part of a committee at church) if I can do it over email. That’s a no-brainer—we’re writers. Making a gentle refusal is easy when we’re writing.

But now…I can turn down people on the phone pretty well. It took some practice to get to that point. But I now can say, “I’d really love to help out, but my schedule isn’t going to permit it. I’m sorry.” Or…if I’m having a weak moment, I’ll ask them if I can sleep on it (and then email them the next day that I really won’t be able to participate.)

I’ve now also had some success in turning people down in person, which for me has always been the hardest. Again, If I’m having a hard time or feeling some pressure, I’ll ask if I can check my schedule and email or call them later. That gives me an opportunity to step back from the situation and come up with a polite response later on.

People might think (especially if you’re at home) that you have more time than you do. They might not realize all the things (social media, promo, learning the writing craft, writing) that you’re doing in a day…and they don’t have to know about it. All we have to do is politely say that we really wish that we could participate, but we’re just not able to.

How well do you protect your writing time and keep your schedule under control? Is it easy for you to say no?

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