The Power of “No”: 3 Tips to Take Control of Your Schedule

September 5, 2023

by elise habel

The sun is tucking in for the evening a little bit earlier day by day, and fall is knocking on the door. Autumn rushes in with so many abrupt changes that it can be easy to overcommit yourself before the chaos of new schedules and commitments even begins. These are a few tips to help you set boundaries that will allow you to apply your energy where you need and want it most.

Plan Out Your Weeks Ahead of Time

As funny as it sounds, it’s important to make time, to make time! Set one day aside each week to meet with your family, your spouse, or just to be quiet with yourself, and take a look at the upcoming week. Spend this time asking questions like “What commitments are coming up next week that are feeling overwhelming? What can we do to minimize the busyness in our schedule in order to make our environment at home feel more in balance?” When you prioritize pre-establishing boundaries in your schedule it becomes a lot easier to reserve time throughout your week for rest and rejuvenation. 

Another positive benefit of weekly evaluation is the impact it can have on the young members of your family. Modeling boundary-setting with your kids’ schedules is a great way to teach and help them practice their own decision-making. For example, ask about an upcoming birthday invitation they received and whether or not they’d like to spend their Saturday evening at the party, or go to the barbeque at grandma and grandpa’s house (if the choice is theirs to make). It’s important that your kids learn the limits of their time and energy, and then how to choose to participate in the events and activities that deserve them. While they don’t likely have the opportunity to make many schedule choices in their own lives while they are young, it is a fantastic skill they can carry far into adulthood. 

Scheduling time to evaluate your calendar ahead of time can also take the pressure off of you if you often feel obligated to accept last-minute invitations just because you are “available”. Being spontaneous can be really healthy and fun until it dominates your time so regularly that it loses its spontaneity and you feel burnt out in the end. You can kindly decline an ask or an invitation with confidence if you have already determined how you want your week to look. It’s okay to say “no” when something is going to interfere with your rest time, especially if the rest already had first dibs to the calendar.

Prepare Yourself to Disappoint Others

Your purpose in life is not to meet the expectations of all of the people around you. In fact, working to do everything that everyone asks of you limits your potential in so many ways! It can be so hard to let people down who are counting on you, but oftentimes, “no” has to be your answer. 

Make saying “no'' easier on yourself by spending time preparing your heart for potentially disappointing someone. Displace your dread with affirmations like “saying ‘no’ to this will allow me to say ‘yes’ to something else”, “saying ‘no’ to this person will not permanently damage our relationship”, or “I am proud of myself for establishing new boundaries”. Like everything else in life, this takes practice and it will come much more naturally as you go on. You can’t control how anyone may take the news, but you’ll feel empowered by bracing your own heart for impact. Good chances are, it’ll go much more smoothly than you ever imagined in the first place. 

By being able to gracefully let someone down, you also set an example for others on how to set boundaries in their own lives and prepare them to have different expectations of you the next time they ask.

Chart Your Priorities

The hurry of the world can overwhelm and crush you if you give it the authority to do so. You have the power to give into being overbooked and exhausted, or to pioneer your schedule and your life in a way that reflects your values and your priorities.

A good way to discern whether a new commitment is worthy of your “yes” or not is to take time to break down the major categories in your life that are most important to you. After you establish the categories that deserve your time and energy, the chart can become a guide that you can reflect back on when you are invited to participate in an activity or asked to do something. The key to this step is to also be very specific. For example, one of your categories might be “family time”, but there is a lot that can fall into that group! Make it easier on yourself by breaking that down to more specific targets like character-building projects or activities for your children, intentional alone time with your husband, chores that enrich your home, etc.

You are a growing, changing person, so your priority chart will likely change and grow with you. The goal is not to center your life around your chart and leave it the same way forever, but to have it as a tool in your pocket for decision-making.

Living a full life and living a busy life are two very different paths. Even when the calendar seems to sweep your feet out from under you, take a deep breath and remember that you are in control of where you apply your energy and where you give your time. It’s you versus busy, and you’ve got this!

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