We’ve been talking a lot around the studio about being more conscious of the seemingly small choices that we make each day, whether it’s our eating habits, thought patterns, or the ways that we communicate.
I’m guilty of performing so many of these actions on autopilot without really stopping to realize that I actually have a choice in the matter… which is why one of my goals for 2020 is to bring more conscious awareness to everything I do.
It’s a big goal, I know, and the first place I’m putting it into action is with how I allocate my time: being more purposeful when I say “no” to commitments, when I say “yes” to new opportunities, and making sure I leave space in my schedule for what really matters. Keep reading for four ways I’m planning to put it into practice this year and spend more of my time on things that are meaningful to me.
1. Get comfortable with “no.”
For most of us, saying “no” can be really uncomfortable. We’re hardwired to want to make others happy and don’t want to let them down or even damage a friendship. But the problem with saying “yes” to every ask that comes our way is that we risk giving our time and energy to others’ priorities, leaving little leftover for what’s actually important to us. When we choose to say “no,” we get back in the driver’s seat of our own lives. We acknowledge that for every commitment we make, we’re the ones making the choice.
A few ways we can get better at saying no:
1. Recognize that for everything we say “yes” to, we’re saying “no” to something else. This mental shift was huge for me, since I started realizing that when I agreed to speak at some random conference, it meant that I’d miss out on spending the weekend with my family.
2. Instead of saying “I can’t…” try saying “I don’t…” This shifts the conversation from you making an excuse (that could be easily disputed) to you sharing a personal policy that you’ve already chosen. For example, say “I don’t make purchases from door-to-door solicitors” instead of “I can’t make a purchase because I don’t have any cash on me.”
3. I loved this Podcast episode from Tim Ferris about How to Say No, full of tips and strategies that successful people use to stay focused on the things that matter. Give it a listen, and let me know in the comments what you learned.
2. Say yes to opportunities that are aligned with your values.
Sometimes I think there’s so much emphasis on learning to say “no” that we can kinda forget to talk about learning to say “yes.” We can get so good at drawing boundaries that we shut out opportunities that might be eye-opening, expand who we are, or lead to great things. It’s all about learning to say yes to the right things, which Kelly explored so well in this post. Her advice? Get clear on what you want, then “take a moment to slow down — pause — and think about what you’re committing to before you do it.”
I loved this podcast interview in which Shonda Rhimes talked about her magical year of saying “yes.”
3. Embrace a simpler schedule.
We’re living in a time when being crazy busy is the norm, so it may require a radical mental shift to adopt a schedule that leaves any open space. I know that for me, any time I have an open spot on my calendar, I tend to rush to fill it with a lunch meeting or work thing or play date. But since one of my goals for 2020 is to leave space for creativity, I’m trying to allow myself some breathing room. An afternoon to paint with Phoebe or a Saturday morning working on my photography or trying a new recipe – these are all pursuits that require a freer schedule but that are totally in line with my life priorities.
4. Write down your priorities and goals, then always be moving towards the ones at the top of your list.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to do this one. Spend an hour before bed journaling about what you want more of in your life in 2020. More quality time with family and friends? Career advancement? Better physical health? Once you’re really clear on what you want, you’ll have a better idea of what you can commit to and how you may need to change your daily schedule so that it reflects more of what’s meaningful to you.
And as Annie Dillard said in one of my favorite quotes ever, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” So make each one count!