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How Saying No Can Scale Back Your Busy Life

How Saying No Can Scale Back Your Busy Life
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You’re stressed. You’re frazzled. You’re exhausted. Does this sound like you? Honestly, this description probably fits most of the people reading this article. Do you make up reasons for why you feel like that? Or should I say, excuses? Everyone feels like they are a victim of their hectic and busy life. But guess what? You are in control. You have the power to design your life exactly the way you want it to be. You just need to learn how to say ‘no’ so you can achieve more balance and inner peace in your life. Here are some ideas for you:

1. Don’t Worry About What Other People Think of You.

Let’s face it. Most people are worried about “public perception.” But why? Why do you feel the need to live up to other people’s expectations? Are they living your life? No. You are! Don’t worry whether they think you’re not on the top of your game, or that your kids aren’t perfect, or that you look selfish. All you need to worry about is what you think of you.

2. Before You Accept Any Invitations, Make Sure You Really Want to Go.

Maybe your second cousin invited you to her son’s big 16th birthday bash. Or your “energy vampire” friend needs more advice about her toxic relationship. Stop and think about whether you actually want to commit to these things. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. But the point here is that you need to only accept invitations that make you happy and excited. All the rest should be placed aside with a polite “Thank you, but no thank you.”

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3. Abandon Your Need to be ‘Perfect.’

In my humble opinion, perfectionism should be named as a psychological disorder (not that you asked). I don’t mean to insult anyone who labels themselves a perfectionist. Really, I don’t. I can be one myself from time to time. But guess what? What is “perfect?” NOTHING! NO ONE!! Perfectionism is just an illusion that people chase. It’s not real. It’s just this unattainable goal that keeps eluding us all. So stop chasing it. Just be happy with who you are! Take the pressure off of yourself and strive for excellence, not perfection. Believe me, there is a difference.

4. Don’t Worry About Hurting Other People’s Feelings.

Many people – especially women – are conditioned to want to make other people happy. We don’t want to be mean. We don’t want someone to feel bad because of our actions. But here’s a newsflash for you – no one is responsible for anyone else’s feelings but their own. As long as you act kindly, speak with love, and have good intentions, you don’t have to worry. If people get offended, then it is their problem, not yours. We all need to take personal responsibility for our feelings, not blame others. So detach from thinking you need to make everyone happy. You don’t.

5. Don’t Buy into Societal Pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses” (or “the Kardashians”)

In the United States, we live in a culture of excess. From constant celebrity tabloid gossip to feeling like we’re “nothing” if we don’t have a bigger house, a nicer car, or go on better vacations that the “Joneses.” Again, it’s all an illusion. Just because your 3-year-old isn’t a soccer superstar yet, well, that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure as a parent. Who cares? See #1 and memorize it…stop caring about what other people think of you.

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6. Be Selfish.

Yes, that word has a negative connotation. I know it does. No one wants to be labeled as “selfish.” But guess what? Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s called ‘self-love.’ If you do nothing but give, and give, and give, and then give some more…well, you’re tank is going to run dry very quickly. And when your tank is dry, you can’t give any more. So you need to refill your tank. And that means saying ‘no’ to obligations that zap your rejuvenation time. It’s okay. No, really. It’s okay to say no.

7. Don’t Impulsively and Habitually say ‘Yes.’

There have been times in my life where I said ‘yes’ only out of habit or because I thought I should. I said ‘yes’ to a promotion – when I later realized I really didn’t like the type of work I would have to do. ‘Yes’ to taking on a major project that I had no experience or training with only to realize later that I hated it. It’s okay to take time to think about it. In fact, it’s imperative.

8. Focus on Your Feelings – Does it Make You Feel Good or Bad?

Let your feelings guide you. Get out of your head. Does your chest tighten up when you say ‘yes’ to a commitment? If it does, hit ‘cancel.’ Pay attention to your feelings. Don’t rationalize too much. If it feels like too much, then it probably is. Don’t try to talk yourself into or out of something that your intuition tells you isn’t right.

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9. Don’t Prioritize Your Schedule, Schedule Your Priorities.

Some people live and die by their schedules. Honestly, I am one of them. But not for the same reasons as other people do. I live by my schedule only to make sure I arrive on time and live up to the obligations I have willingly and joyfully committed to. Look at your real priorities. Having your kids in 20,000 different activities while working a high-powered job and being president of the PTO are all choices. Choices that are probably stressing you out. If they don’t, then cool. Keep doing it! But if not, then you need to re-think your priorities.

10. Know That Being Busy Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness. Or Success.

Sometimes people confuse “busy-ness” with achievement. I know plenty of people who are constantly busy but actually accomplish next to nothing. Just because you’re busy, busy, busy, doesn’t make you more successful, happier, or a better achiever than someone who has learned to say ‘no.’

11. Look at What You’re Missing Out On.

‘Me’ time. Family dinners. Talking with your kids. Playing games with your family. At the end of your life, what are you going to regret the most? Not being president of every organization and club? Not spending more time at work? Not having your kid make it to the NBA (which, by the way, unless he/she is 7 feet tall with crazy talent, well, that might not happen …)? Or not really getting to know your kids. Or not really enjoying yourself and finding your inner peace. I think most people would regret the latter.

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Here’s the bottom line: It’s okay to say no! It’s not only okay, it’s necessary if you want to achieve balance and inner peace. If you’ve never known how that feels, you may not have even considered saying ‘no.’  Don’t worry. People will still like you. Your kids and/or spouse will thank you. In the end, saying ‘no’ will keep you sane. And it will give you a sense of a life well lived, not a life ‘well-stressed.’

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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