Lately, the universe has been begging me to slow down, take a pause, and only focus on the essentials. Maybe you can relate. Have you ever opened up your calendar, or thought more about an event you thought you should say yes to in the moment, only to have an overwhelming amount of regret after the fact? Or perhaps you’ve committed to a project that you once loved, but now there’s no passion or time? Both scenarios happened to me last month and I spent a lot of time thinking, “How did I get here, and why am I not excited?” Which was then immediately followed up with a wave of guilt when I questioned whether or not I could back out. Not to mention, I was confused and mad at myself. Just weeks ago, all of this sounded fun.
Then it hit me. I got to this point because I wasn’t clear about what I really wanted, and in turn, I wasn’t saying yes to the right things. Instead of doing a daily check in and taking an honest inventory of my time and energy, I said yes to almost everything that came my way.
Within moments of this realization, I saw this picture from Ruby of The Numinous, and instantly felt supported. “To protect my energy, it is okay to change my mind.” This was the phrase I needed to hear to immediately drop the guilt.
Now, I’m not telling you to say no to everything that comes your way, and try to purposely keep things off your calendar. The goal isn’t to say no. I’m not even capable of that. Instead, I’m encouraging you to take a moment to slow down — pause — and think about what you’re committing to before you do it. Here’s what helped me get clear on what I want, and in turn, start saying yes to the right things.
Check in daily with how you’re feeling.
This step has been a game-changer. Every morning and night I check in with myself and gauge where I’m at both mentally and physically. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I cut back on making plans or setting important meetings. If I’m full of energy and excitement, I channel it into something productive. I jot down creative ideas, reach out to friends to catch up, and take coffee meetings. If I’m feeling down or bummed, I have solid alone time, reach out to a friend that I know will cheer me up, or take a nap.
Some days I’m wired and thrilled to get up at 5am and get going for the day. Others, my body feels depleted and I need to take it easy and rest up.
Staying in tune with myself every single day has really helped me protect my energy in whatever way I need.
Channel your inner Marie Kondo.
By now, I’m sure you all know Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She’d tell you to get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy — but why stop at tangible goods? Friends: if you’re not feeling something, don’t do it. If you’re having fun with it, keep going. Simply put, let’s keep life simple, and while you’re at it, drop the guilt. Too many times I’ve caught myself saying yes to appease the other person, or to avoid any kind of awkward conversation. I can tell you first-hand that saying no to something you’re not feeling is a lot less painful than having to backtrack later.
Here’s the thing: when you’re clear on what you want, the no becomes a lot easier. I encourage you to give it a shot. I also encourage you to get to know yourself better. In the past month I’ve realized that my energy and excitement are both great qualities, but my curiosity can sometimes get in the way. Meaning, I can really only commit to things for a small amount of time before I feel the need for a change. Complacency doesn’t work for this girl. Knowing this now helps inform the things I’ll say yes to in the future.
Identify your priorities and goals.
This one is tough because you don’t necessarily know what lies on the other side of a yes or no. But if you’re doing a daily check in and getting clear on what you want, I think you’ll have the right answer. Here’s how I put it into play: first, I identify my priorities. Personally speaking, right now I’m focused on spending more quality time with friends and family, and implementing a regular workout schedule. So any temptation or offer that comes my way, I ask myself, “Does this take away from my priorities, and if so, does it at least help me professionally?” If it takes me further away from my goals or priorities, I typically say no. Just remember, your priorities may shift — that daily check in is key to helping guide you.
Give yourself time to respond.
Take solace in knowing that almost nothing requires an immediate response. You have permission to pause and decipher whether or not you can commit. This is probably the hardest step for me because I’m a naturally excited human. I feel so honored when someone asks me to speak, work on a project, or join their crew, that I’ll almost immediately say yes. However, I’ve come to learn that I can still feel that excitement and maintain a great friendship while telling them no if it doesn’t serve me well.
I already said yes, now what?
If you’ve reached that point where you need to rescind your RSVP or commitment, here’s my simple piece of advice to you: be honest. Be honest with yourself and with your friend, colleague, partner, etc. My friend Tory always reminds me, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.” In this case, if I know that I don’t want to be somewhere and I won’t feel present, I’m not just wasting my time, I’m wasting others’ time and energy also.
A tactful and kind approach is always best, and more often than not simply stating, “I’ve overcommitted and I don’t have the time I thought I had,” or “My priorities have shifted and I can’t commit to the project like I initially planned,” will leave you and them feeling better about the situation. I hope that you’re kind to yourself in the process, and above all, you protect your energy. You have my permission.