Your schedule is already full. Your kids complain that you don’t spend enough time. You are sleep deprived, and you feel like life is out of control. Rings a bell?
Additionally, a hospital administrator asks you whether you’d be willing to write an article for the community newsletter and your daughter’s teacher invites you to be on the parent committee.

You could be involved in so many projects that your day is filled up 24 hours and sleep isn’t even included. So what do you do? How can you say “no” when all the requests and projects seem valid and necessary?

Many of us women have never been taught how to say no without feeling guilty. Instead, our fear of what others think, a desire to be loved and accepted, or the nagging sense of not being good enough causes many of us to fall into a pattern of self-neglect. Often we berate ourselves for not doing enough. We push ourselves beyond the point of exhaustion to get “just one more thing done, and we struggle with time management constantly.” We tolerate an unkind remark rather than risk upsetting someone by speaking up. And we deny our feelings by saying “yes” to requests for help when everything inside us screams “no, no, no!”

If you currently feel your life is on overload, and there is not one more project or task that you can take on here are three simple options to say “no” without feeling guilty:

  1. The simple, straight forward No
    “I’m sorry, but my schedule is so full right now that I don’t have the time to commit to this project. If I did, it wouldn’t be fair to you nor me since I know I couldn’t be 100% committed. But thank you for asking.”
  1. Let me think about it
    “Please give me a day and let me see whether or how I could include this in my schedule and I will let you know tomorrow.” If you come to the conclusion that you cannot take it on, respond with answer 1.
  1. Be part of the solution but not the solution
    “I’m sorry, I don’t’ have the time, but I could see whether John would be interested in helping you.” Or, “let me think about who else you could ask or how you could solve this on your own.”

Next time someone asks you for a favor or to take on a new project, and you don’t have the time and resources to commit, practice one of these approaches and recognize how you feel in the process. Also remind yourself, sometimes you may do someone a favor by saying “no.”