Not Yes

Posted on December 03,2012 by msppjen


You guys, I think the secret is out. Busy people get things done. Who knew? Apparently lots of people, even in Franklin's time. This is what keeps us busy people so busy.

Right now, I may be the busiest I have ever been in my life. It rivals my senior year of undergrad, when I was in school full-time (and taking extra credits to graduate early), working full-time at the non-profit where I am still employed, had a part-time job at a psychiatric hospital, and a work-study job in a social psychology lab on campus. I think I might be busier now, or at least equally as busy. Despite being ultra-busy, I find myself making more and more commitments. I know I will find the time to do everything that needs to be done, but sometimes you need a second to breathe. If you're like me, you probably need to tell people no in order to get that free second.

And if you're like me, you also know that "no" is a four letter word.

They, the powers that be, are always saying that we have to learn to say no. We even learned in class that consulting guru Peter Block extolls the virtues of no. Close friends and family sometimes ask if I know what it means, how to say it, etc. I assure them that I do (I'd have to use that OTHER word to assert the opposite), but it is still rare for me to use it.

Despite this, I still know the importance of saying no when it's for the best. I even advise friends and colleagues to say no, of course fully admitting I know how hard it is. This is an hypocrisy that I am trying to correct. I am working on declining more often. I try to remind myself that people will find another way to get it done without me, telling myself that it can even better to help others become more self-reliant or help people to build different connections, anything it takes for me to stick with the no. I am definitely a work in progress.

In the meantime, I try to be very thoughtful about how I say yes. I talked before about making time for the important things. It is this that keeps me encouraging people to continue to ask me for help, advice, favors. There are times when it is okay to say yes, to offer your time, expertise, whatever you have. The more we say no to the less important, the more we can say yes to what matters to us. Like all things in life, this is a balancing act. I am still a long way off from Block's advice to say no as often as we say yes, but I am working toward finding my own equilibrium.