8 ways to cope when you’ve said ‘yes’ too many times

‘Just say no.’

It’s awesome advice. Spectacular even. Except when you are a chronic people pleaser and you realise you have said yes to an enormous number of things that are slowly but surely closing in on you.

Then it’s just smug.

I havejust emerged from a period of too much yes. It’s been months but the light ahead finally feels like sunshine rather than an on-coming train. I am hoping to bask in that sunshine for a while.

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But while I was dodging the trains, here’s how I kept my head and the lessons I learned along the way:

  1. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I write everything out. I note exactly what I have committed to, the deadlines, the dates and who I have promised what. I find an A3 sized piece of paper helps. I also include the regular everyday things that still need to be done. This exercise has one of two effects. Either I start to hyperventilate as I realise the ernormity of the hole I have dug and pour a very large glass of wine. Embarrassingly often, I look at the neat list, which when reduced on paper appears quite manageable, and decide I actually have capacity to take more on. Note to future self: Drink the wine. Do not fool yourself into thinking you have more capacity.
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  2. Reduce. After I write everything out, I assess whether anything can be delegated, shared or pushed back. In doing so, I try to remind myself:
    • I am talented and capable. But I am not the only talented and capable person around.
    • It’s okay to prioritise the things that make my family and I happy, that generate income and that fuel passion.
    • When noting deadlines and expectations, make sure they align with what I’ve actually been asked to do, not my heightened sense of what I should do.
  3. Reflect and understand the yes. While I have that big old list in front of me, it’s helpful to think about why I have said yes to all the things. It’s not exactly comfortable, but I need to do it in order to avoid always ending up in the same situation. There are too many things that I say yes to simply because I am in the habit of saying yes.
  4. Don’t over-commit the week after big stuff has finished. In amongst the big ticket “yes” items this year was helping run the school fete and co-convening its craft stall. I had to push back a fair bit of freelance work in order to clear the time necessary. And I told everyone I’d be free the week after the fete. So instead of having a relaxed week to recuperate (which I needed), I actually had an even bigger week of work to get through. Which leads me to…
  5. Schedule time for yourself. When I am pressured by appointments on all sides, I don’t honour any time to myself. I need to book in some downtime and respect it as I would my appointments with others.
  6. Keep a notebook on hand. When I have a huge number of balls in the air, my mind is a constant whir of to-do lists, ideas and 3am panics. I find it useful to keep a notebook nearby (including on the bedside table) and jot down what comes to mind. Allowing a notebook to be the caretaker of my thoughts immediately relaxes my spinning mind.
  7. Guard the productive times. I can get through a lot more work at 6am in the morning than 9pm at night. When I’m under the pump, my household understands that I will be working from 5am – 7am and they respect that. Most of the time.
  8. Plan for next time. I have a knowledge management background so whenever I am doing something, I am constantly documenting how and why I did it. While it seems counterintuitive to be using time this way, the benefits play out later down the track. If it’s a recurring commitment, I can rely on those notes to either be more efficient in the future or feel comfortable about delegating a well-documented task.

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I’m glad to be in a period of space right now. I can be reflective about my constant need to say yes and I can think more critically about where I should be spending my time. So perhaps that’s the most important thing to do when I get to the end of a long line of yeses – stop, get off the hamster wheel and reflect on what I really want my life to look like. Rather than saying yes to everyone else – what would it look like if I said yes to myself?

How do you cope when you’ve given too many yeses?

Written By

A self-confessed geek and lover of all things digital, Robyna started her professional life as software developer before moving into IT management and consulting. Her excitement about technology has grown since the rise of social media and she now helps professionals and firms build a strong online presence. She also writes at the Mummy & the Minx about keeping your mojo during motherhood, drinks a lot of coffee and makes her own clothes.

2 Comments

  • Awesome post! I have just said no to attending an event I was dreading. I had originally showed an interest in it, but as time went on between it just being an idea and now becoming an official thing, I realised I only said yes because I was scared I would look like a bad friend or that I’d be forever outcast in a particular social group. I knew that attending would actually be a lot of trouble to go to for something my heart wasn’t in and that being there would actually make me anxious and miserable (it’s complicated). I am glad I’ve confronted myself about all of it and have even emotionally let go of some people who are not good for me right now. It’s hard but I’ve given myself permission to say no and make plans that make my heart happy at this time of year.
    I used to be good at saying no but terrible at letting myself off the hook with the guilt. Now I think I’m finally making progress.

  • In the past, I always dealt with having to attend things I didn’t really want to with booze. No I cap my ‘out of the ordinary’ weekly events to two and that seems to work pretty well for me. Great post. X

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