Learn To Say No

The week I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue (where my adrenalin glands have been pushed beyond their capacity) I finally understood why. That same week I had said yes to organising the summer ball for my son’s school, agreed to meet a colleague of my husband to advise her on becoming a consultant, put 2 dinner parties in the diary for the same weekend and offered my services for career counselling free of charge. All good use of my time, but in tandem with being a mum of 3 and doing the day jopb, it is just too much. Coaches don’t tend to coach themselves and I had found myself in the vicious circle of over commitment – never saying ‘no’, which is an area I often work with my coaching clients to solve.

Some of the solution is in good time management. If you don't realize how full your schedule really is, you're likely to over commit. When you add up the hours for paid work, charity work, school meetings, workouts, family responsibilities, homework sessions and other obligations, you may be amazed at how little free time you actually have. So have a real hard look at how you spend your time each week.

It is also important to be clear about what matters to you. If you don't know which areas of your life are most important to you, it is easy to devote time to the wrong things. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in these seven vital areas - health, family time, financial goals, intellectual pursuits, social time, spiritual goals and professional goals. Write these down so you can use them as a reminder; then allocate your time accordingly.
Here are a few different ways of looking at saying no

  • Saying no can be good for you. Saying no is not a selfish act. In fact, it may be the best thing that you can do for your family and your other commitments. When you say no, you'll be able to spend quality time on the things you've already said yes to that are really important to you.
  • Saying no can allow you to try new things. Just because you've always helped plan the company Christmas party doesn't mean that you have to keep doing it forever. Saying no will free up time to pursue other hobbies or interests.
  • Yes isn't always the best answer. If you're over committed and under a lot of stress, you've got a much better chance of becoming ill, tired or just plain old crabby; which doesn't benefit you or anyone else.
  • It's important to recognize the power of other people. Let those around you have a chance. Although others may not do things exactly the same way you would, you can learn a valuable lesson by allowing them to help, while gaining treasured free time.
  • Let go of guilt. If friends want to get together for an impromptu evening out on the town when you've already scheduled a quiet evening at home with your partner, it's okay to say no. Do what you've set out to do and don't veer off that path because of feelings of guilt or obligation. It will only lead to additional stress in your life.
  • Sleep on it. You don’t always have to give an immediate answer.  Take time to consider a request on your time and give a response only when you have considered it in the context of your goals and the other things you want to achieve.

Saying no won't be easy if you're used to saying yes all the time. But learning to say no is an important part of simplifying your way to a better, less stressful life.


To contact Gill McKay, please email her at