The inability to say “no” really stems from a lack of clarity about what your priorities are. When you are clear on what matters most, it is much easier to turn down unimportant invitations, even when it leaves some people disappointed.
It’s important to realize that saying “no” is just a way of saying “yes” to something else. When you get a dinner invitation but have a prior commitment, it’s easy to say no because you understand that the prior commitment is more important. You're saying "no" to the dinner because you're saying "yes" to the prior commitment.
For me, this is an ongoing journey, but it shows up most commonly with my family. I get excited by the thought of going out with friends or taking on a new project, but I’ve now realized that by saying “yes” to too many evening commitments, I am too-often saying “no” to time with my wife and son.
Things got a lot easier for me after I did this short activity.
What commitments do you want to have in your life?
Make a list of all the different things you care about: Health, Career, Spouse, Friends, Kids, etc. Maybe you volunteer. If you have hobbies, add those. What about kids' activities? You likely have more commitments than you realize!
Once you’ve got a list, arrange these things you care about into a hierarchy. What are your top commitments? Are there some commitments on the same level as others? The task of prioritizing can be challenging, but that’s really where the value is. Arrange things the way you believe they should be prioritized (which is often NOT the current way you’re doing things – don’t worry).
Here’s my list as an example:
Give it a try for yourself! Everyone’s list will look different, and it will likely change over time, but by making a draft of it, you’ll get a clearer vision of what success means to you!
And, once you’ve got the priorities clear, it’s much easier to schedule your time. (And that’s what we’ll talk about next time…)