Learning how to say no and protect time for self-care isn’t impossible. You can even edify your calling in the process. The secret?
Asking the right questions!
We’ve all been there. The day, oh who am I kidding, the minute of reckoning. The minute you need to decide if you’re going to say yes or no to the latest request for your time.
Say yes, and it’s goodbye respite. Or, say no, and keep your important self-care time.
But, how do you say no to all of the seemingly critical and urgent demands?
1 How Can I Delay the Decision?
If you’re like me, you can sense the desperation in the voices of the people making the requests.
I can tell that what they’re doing is important.
I can sense they need me.
And they need me right now!
Maybe. But, maybe not.
Either way, don’t answer their request immediately. The first strategy to say no and protect time for self-care is to delay the decision.
Don’t answer any requests immediately.
Never. Just don’t do it.
All of us can make better decisions when we are not under a time-constraint or pressure to make the decision.
Give yourself time to thoughtfully consider the opportunity.
We need to make a thoughtful decision.
Because what we might be sensing in our initial conversation is that whatever they’re doing is important to them-the person asking us to do something.
And they passionately believe they need someone (anyone) to help them.
And, finally, the sooner they find the person to help them, the sooner they check that task off of their to-do list.
So it is urgent.
The reality is that none of the situations above benefit you or your calling.
So before you say yes, make sure you’re saying yes for your right reasons. Until you know, answer with a pre-selected (and practiced) response. Something like the following will do:
- “I don’t believe I can do that right now. But I’ll review my schedule, and if I can, I will respond to you tomorrow.”
- “That sounds like a great [opportunity, program, mission], but unfortunately, I can’t take on anything else right now.
What if, after you take time to think, you decide to proceed?
Simply get back with the person. I promise – it will be a thrill for them to hear back from you!
2 Have I Brought the Requests into My Quiet Time? How to Say No and Protect Time for Self-care.
It may not seem relevant to bring requests for your time into your quiet time, but I assure you it is.
Because it can help you identify the right reasons to say yes.
Thus, making everything else an easy no.
Spending time with God, (whether it’s in prayer, praise, meditation, or studying Scripture) helps you align your priorities. Once your priorities are adjusted:
- It’s easier to separate earthly matters and Kingdom matters.
- You have a clearer head because you have removed the pressure to please the person asking you for your help.
- And finally, your stress is lowered because you’ve removed the time constraints.
To clarify, both of the prepared responses above are negative answers. So, no further followup is necessary if you confirm in your quiet time that the request is not for you.
On the other hand, if during your prayer time you feel the request is important for you or your calling, you have the validation to pursue the opportunity with confidence.
This process gives you a way to filter through requests without feeling obligated to respond to everyone else’s priorities.
And can we have a side-bar conversation for a second?
Be consistent with your quiet time. Because, if you haven’t thought about it yet, quiet time is self-care.
Therefore, put this self-care time on your calendar-it’s an essential self-care task. Doing this will help you in two ways!
- Quiet time is on the calendar – so you can be more consistent with your spiritual self-care.
- And, you can clarify your priorities during the decision-making process.
3 Will the Task Edify My Calling?
Similarly, tasks worthy of a ‘yes’ can be tasks that help you edify your calling.
Dictionary.com defines the word edify as to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually; uplift.
Relationships can be built up or developed, your trust in God can be deepened, and the Gospel can be shared during these opportunities.
Aligning tasks that edify your calling can offer instruction related to your purpose, are Kingdom-focused, and are usually a positive experience.
We please God when we focus our efforts on eternal matters instead of earthly matters.
Of course, not all of the opportunities will edify your calling. So we have one more question to ask so we always leave room for these opportunities.
4 What is My Opportunity Cost? Another Strategy How to Say No and Protect Time for Self-care?
Saying yes to tasks related to Kingdom matters are good things to say yes too.
But, there’s still something else to consider.
When you spend time on any particular task(s) you give up an opportunity to spend time on other tasks.
You have a finite amount of time and energy. So you need carefully weigh each request.
If you say yes to A, you are at the same time, saying no to B.
Before I built this list of questions, I had a ‘squeeze it in’ mentality.
Somehow, I thought I could just make it all work. I thought I could just ‘make room’.
But, that mentality is flawed.
When you spend your time doing something ‘here’, you are not able to also spend it doing something ‘there’.
Well, first, some tasks cannot be squeezed no matter how much you try. The task takes the time it takes and after a certain point, there are no more shortcuts.
Second, you can’t always tell which of these tasks are ‘unsqueezable’ upfront.
Third, and probably most frustrating, some tasks have hidden barriers. You can’t see how big the project really is until you get started.
And lastly, most of us under-estimate the time required for every task on our calendar in the first place.
Seriously. Think about that. How often do you forget about the hidden ‘inactive’ time?
- Commute time
- High-volume traffic times
- Meal prep & planning when we cook at home
- Gathering (looking for) supplies
- Waiting for responses
- Interruptions (huge)
How can you accommodate all of the above when so much is hidden or unpredictable?
Well, you can’t 1:1. But you can implement a rule that will help.
For every ONE thing you say ‘yes’ to, you say ‘no’ to two others.
Saying no to two other tasks won’t necessarily open your schedule like you’re thinking. But, it will prevent you from over-committing yourself.
Plus, something interesting happens when you implement this rule.
When you consider that two things either go away or don’t ever start, you feel a greater need to follow through with the three other suggestions I’ve listed above!
I know that this process isn’t always going to work perfectly. But, it is still important to use it to protect your self-care time. It helps you live out your purpose. And, you will see after using this decision tree, not every request is worth your YES.
In closing, I hope you see that learning how to say no and protect time for self-care is pretty simple. And, that some opportunities allow you to edify your calling in the process. It’s all possible when you know the secret – asking the right questions.
Schedule your quiet time now, and add these questions to your quiet time with God so you can start asking yourself the right questions today!
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!