biz ladies: saying “no”


It’s funny how topics and posts happen here at D*S. Sometimes they’re planned way ahead of time and sometimes they happen over the course of a few days. Other times, like this post, they seem to flow naturally, as if my brain had already written the words and my hands merely needed to transcribe them. Sometimes your body and mind decide together when it’s the right time to say something.

Most people who know me outside of D*S know that I’m someone who trusts my gut almost indiscriminately. If it feels wrong or if something just doesn’t sit right, I won’t do it. When I get into a rut of ignoring my gut, bad things happen and, while that’s not a good thing, it’s always a learning experience in the making.

For the first five or six years of running D*S I was the Queen of Yes. I said yes to every and any opportunity  that came across my (virtual) desk and it lead to some amazing experiences. But it also lead to some not so amazing experiences in and out of work. So over the last few years I’ve started to make some changes that have downgraded me from the Queen of Yes to, let’s say The Duchess of No (I haven’t quite mastered it enough to reach queen status). As scary as these changes have been, they’ve been shockingly easy and rewarding to make. Almost like the first push down a water slide- as soon as you’re past the scary part you wonder why you avoided doing something that could be so exciting, inspiring, fun and- ultimately- good for your health (Yes, I think theme parks are good for your health. My inner child agrees.)

For today’s Biz Ladies post I’m going to share my personal path to LEARNING TO SAY NO- along with the tips, tools and tricks I’m using to keep this way of thinking in place. I hope this can help anyone in need learn to better prioritize their time and choices to preserve the health of both their business and their lives. -Grace

The full post continues after the jump…

The Beginning

Early one morning in December of 2009 I found myself lying in bed with my heart pounding. At first it was just part of my face, but then I realized that large sections of my legs and arms felt numb. I knew I could speak and think clearly, so it wasn’t a stroke, but something was very, very wrong.

I woke Aaron up and told him that I thought I needed to go to the hospital. So we bundled up and walked the few blocks up 7th avenue to the hospital. When I finally saw a doctor, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. They suggested that perhaps the numbness was a side effect of a migraine, but I didn’t feel like I had a headache. I’d also never gotten headaches for the previous 27 years of my life. But we went home, I took some migraine medication and tried to get some sleep.

A few weeks later when I was home with my family for Christmas it happened again. My parents called a family friend who knew a doctor on-call at the ER and my Dad and I went to have me checked out again on Christmas Eve. The doctor wrote down and discussed Multiple Sclerosis as a possible diagnosis so I spent the next few weeks living in fear and awaiting an MRI.

After several doctor’s visits and, thankfully, a clean MRI, no one could find anything wrong with me. But the symptoms persisted. So I took it upon myself to find a neurologist because I felt like I was either dying or going crazy- and one of those two options just hadn’t been caught by the right doctor.

The neurologist did some simple tests and then wrapped things up with some tension examinations. As he pushed on my muscles he stopped and said, “You are one of the most tense people I’ve ever met.” He concluded our visit by saying that all of my problems could be solved with exercise, relaxation and some time off. I was furious. I felt like I had a real medical condition and it was only a matter of time before someone caught the life-threatening illness that was lurking somewhere in my body.

It took me a full year to finally accept and realize that the real illness that was threatening my health and happiness was stress. I had been so neglectful of my personal life and personal health in favor of the (perceived) health of my business that I had created a level of tension in my body that was manifesting itself as migraines, numbness, anger and an intense amount of stress. That was the moment that I decided to start saying NO.

Overcoming Fears

The biggest fear most of us have with learning to say NO is that we will miss an opportunity. An opportunity that would have catapulted us to success, or that will never come again. And most of the time*, that simply isn’t true.

I’ve found that the first part of learning to say NO is learning to accept that offers and opportunities are merely an indication that you’re on the right path- not that you’ve arrived at a final destination you can never find again.

If someone is choosing YOU, it means you’re doing something right. And that is the biggest opportunity you can receive- the chance to recognize that your hard work is paying off. And if you continue to do good work, those opportunities will continue – and improve- over time.

If you don’t trust that, here’s something I like to do: Talk out or write out all the bad things you think will happen if you DON’T take an offer that comes your way. I’ve found 9 times out of 10 the things I’m worried about sound silly and unrealistic when I say them out loud. If that still doesn’t help, seek the advice of someone you trust. That person can be purely emotional support or they can be someone who understands that industry. I think it’s important to have both, but if nothing else, it helps to talk to someone else who has dealt with that field so they can tell you what sort of deal is common, uncommon, fair and unfair.

Here’s an example: a friend recently called me about a book deal she’d been offered. The opportunity was exciting, but the bottom line was that the offer wasn’t enough to make it worth her time. She didn’t know if she should just do it anyway or if she was asking too much. We were able to talk things out and I was able to share the experience I’d had to give her some perspective on the situation. Sometimes that simple back and forth can really help clarify things.

*However, if  Oprah comes calling, take the offer.

1. Keeping it Real(istic)

Before you try to make any major change, it’s important to keep two things in mind:

1. What stage of life and business are you in?

Are you just starting out? Are you 22 and FULL of energy and time and excitement? If so, you may still be in a place where saying YES more often is totally ok and, frankly, part of the learning process. I’m really glad I tried so many different things for the first few years of my business. It’s what gave me the experience and skills that I draw on every day. But after eight years I’m not the same person I was. I can’t- and don’t want to- stay up all night working for free. While I won’t rule situations like that out entirely (there’s got to be room for passion projects), it’s no longer the best choice for my personal and work life. But taking stock of where you are in your life and business is important. Someone who has three kids and has been working non-stop for 10 years is simply going to have different priorities than a 22-year old fresh out of college with no other life commitments. And that’s ok- each of those people and life stations has room to grow, learn and succeed.

2. This is not about being perfect.

You’re going to slip up and say YES to things that end up being draining or don’t work out the way you want. That’s ok- it’s part of the process and part of being human. This way of thinking is about learning to make changes slowly and to the best of your ability. Cut yourself some slack and accept that we all still make mistakes no matter how many positive changes we make or life experience we gain.

2. Making a Choice System

I hate overly-systematizing my life. It makes me feel like nothing is passionate or spontaneous or fun. But sometimes a little bit of a system can go a long way. So I’ve started asking myself questions to help me make choices when my gut feels a little unclear or is wavering.

Please note: this choice system is based on what’s important to ME. Everyone needs to prioritize according to what is most important to their life.

1. Am I excited about this?

  • Yes: Awesome! Move forward to the next step…
  • Nope: Life’s too short to pursue a project that doesn’t excite me in any way. So it’s a No.

2. Is this a good fit for who I am and what my business is about?

  • Yes: Rad. Time for the next step…
  • Nope: Is there room to negotiate so it is? Then consider the next step. If not, it’s time for a No.

3. Is this project going to give me a skill, financial gain or opportunity that is worth working for?

  • Yes? Move to the next step…
  • Nope? Time to bust out a NO.

4. Is it a balanced/equal partnership?

  • Yes: Perfect, you’re on your way to a new project!
  • No: Time to renegotiate. If you can’t, get out. You and your business deserve to be part of a project that fairly values what you have to bring to the table.

5. Are you willing to give something up to make room for this project?

  • Yes: Think about what that would be and how you would do it (and how that would effect your life and happiness)
  • No: Do you have to? If not, that’s ok. But if you do have to make time for this somewhere and you’re not willing to, you just can’t do it. It’s a No.

The next step after getting through these questions is to make sure the situation you’re in will turn out as closely as possible to the vision you have in your head. That means: get it in writing. So many projects end on a sour note because two parties think they’re on the same page and end up on different ones. The best way to prevent that is to get all of the situations you’ve assured above put into writing and signed by both parties. That way you can move forward as clearly as possible. Nothing’s worse than saying Yes! to a situation and having to say No later down the line because someone backed out of a promise they made.

 

3. Keep a Calendar of Commitments

This is a simple step I’ve failed to do for, well, ever. It wasn’t until I had other full-time team members to work with that I saw the importance of mapping out all that we wanted to do over the course of a year. Again, it goes back to me not wanting to feel pinned down by a schedule or system. That said, a lot of times we commit to things without really looking at how busy it will make us.

Even if you follow the steps/questions above and narrow down some of your project load, you’re going to end up saying yes to a lot of things. Those things need to be mapped out on a calendar.

Why? Because creativity needs time to breath and your brain needs time to rest and be inspired. Put all of your commitments in a calendar and then frequently check your schedule. Is your spring completely packed? Is your Fall empty? Juggle the schedule around so you have more time to work at a balanced pace. Make sure you leave room for breaks and vacations. Even if you don’t go anywhere- your brain needs a day (or a month) off every now and then.

Also, it’s important to remember that this way of thinking is about looking at things in the long-term. Your health (business and personal) is at its best when you give yourself room to work, think and breathe. If you don’t do a regular check-in on all the things you’ve committed to, it’s easy to suddenly look up and realize you’ve booked yourself solid for 12 months.

*I love Google calendars for this. I’m always checking the month-view so I can see what my work load looks like. I find it helpful to have anyone I work with keep one, too. Then we all share calendars- that way I know what their work-load looks like and know when to both give them space and when NOT to book something for myself if they’re not around to help.

 

4. Dealing with the Push Back

For me, being afraid to say NO had to do with being scared of people’s reactions. Would they hate me? Talk behind my back? Get mad and yell at me? Make me feel guilty?

Looking back, ALL of those things have already happened to me after saying NO to a project. But the reality is- 99% of the time, they don’t. Most people understand that everyone is busy and can’t say Yes to everything. If they’re kind people they’ll understand and leave you be. But it helps to have a response. Here’s how I learned to deal with what I called the Push Back:

Have a standard response: I have a canned response in Gmail (I love that program) I use for the basis of my No responses. Each one is just a template I use as a jumping off point. Having that in place is actually what leads me to respond to things in a more timely manner and in a more personalized way. I find seeing those words puts me in the right (polite) frame of mind to respond to requests and opportunities in a thoughtful, professional way. In general I find it’s great to:

  • Thank someone for their time and thinking of you for their project
  • Explain that your schedule is busy because of [insert a specific example if possible]
  • Suggest an alternate person that would be good for the project [This helps them, helps you support someone else you like and ends the situation on a positive, helpful note]
  • Suggest a follow-up time if you DO want do the project down the road [If they’re genuinely interested in you and your work they will follow up. They really will. But DON’T suggest a time way down the road if you don’t plan on ever doing the project.]
  • End again with a thank you- even if the offer isn’t good, it’s polite to thank someone for taking the time to reach out to you personally.

 

5. Creating a Fail Safe and/or Support System

Like I mentioned above, nobody’s perfect. But if you help build a few support systems around you, you’re less likely to fall back into “Yes” mode as easily. Here are some ways I am currently trying to build this system around myself to make sure I don’t slide back into “say yes to everything” mode.

  • Get Help: That means different things to different people, but having someone to talk to or take things off your plate is invaluable. Whether that’s an intern, an employee, a good friend, a business meetup group or, literally, a therapist or counselor to talk to- this is CRUCIAL. You need to have a place to release energy and stress and regroup back to a healthy place. That sounds self-explanatory, but to me, the most important reason you need to do this is to remember what that healthy, happy place feels like. The further away you get from that feeling and place, the easier it is to forget how good it feels and how much you need that in your life. The last thing you want to do is create a NEW normal where being stressed out is all you know.
  • Take time Off: I know we’re all broken records about this piece of advice and we rarely take it. But this year, I started taking it. I don’t work on Saturdays (at all) and I barely work on Sunday anymore. And I feel like a very different person already. I’m not back to normal by any means, but I’m getting there. And I’m catching glimpses of the old Grace more and more every day. And it’s nice to feel her back again- I missed the old me that was excited, happy and energetic. And I was never going to find her again without giving myself a chance to breathe and rest.
  • Remember you can say YES and then NO: I realized that when I said Yes to something I felt like I was forever on the hook. But remembering that you can back out (responsibly) of a project if something comes up is important. Life happens and, in most cases, opportunities and projects can wait- or be handed off to someone else. Your health and happiness are more important. Remember you always have the “Yes, then No” card in your pocket and you won’t ever feel trapped and out of control of a situation.

6. Final Thoughts

I’m still working on this way of thinking every day. Even writing this post I had to stop a few times to have a snack, walk around, play with my cat and stretch. That means I’m finishing 30 minutes later than I wanted to. But Turk needed the play time and I needed some food to keep me going. Those things are more important in the long run and making little decisions like that and realizing the world won’t end if you’re a little late (or if you say No) is important.

If you take just three things away from this post, I hope they’ll be:

1. ONLY EMBARK ON SITUATIONS THAT ARE RESPECTFUL OF YOUR TIME, YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND YOUR HEALTH

2. OPPORTUNITIES ARE RARELY LUCK- THEY ARE OFTEN THE RESULT OF HARD WORK AND PERSEVERANCE- TRUST THAT YOU CAN CREATE THEM AGAIN.

3. YOU CAN’T CONTINUE TO INNOVATE IF YOU’RE TOO TIRED TO DO YOUR BEST WORK. LEAVE TIME TO REST, RESTORE AND BECOME INSPIRED.

All my best to everyone reading. I hope all of you have the success in and out of your work life that you’re working so hard to achieve. xo, grace

 

T

I cannot even tell you how perfectly timed this post is for me. I recently had a visit to the ER at age 27 which ended up as a clinical diagnosis of my first ocular migraine. I’d lost my peripheral vision and was seeing iridescent spots and while in the ER I had a hard time even telling the nurses my social security number because I kept mixing it up with my phone number. Over the past week I’ve been experiencing pain across the muscles in my shoulder that only intensify throughout the day. I know I’m stressed but I think sometimes we all forget how much the stress, lack of GOOD sleep and generally taking better care of ourselves through our daily decisons can lead to not just a more fulfilling life but a healthier life.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and I hope that you know by sharing it you are very likely saving dozens (if not more) people from themselves or at least making them aware that one no is no more life halting than too many yes’s.

Amy

Grace, thanks for taking the time to write this post – I think it’s all really good advice. While I’m only at a starting point of starting my business, I’m definitely bookmarking this to look back on in the future.

kelly jo

I have noticed a change in your writing and engagement on the blog lately, from great to excellent! there’s a spring in your step for sure, so thanks for sharing why, so that that light can be passed on to all of us, who will then pass it on to others, who will then…

Annie @ Plumsiena

Wow, Grace, that is quite a story and one which most of us tend to ignore.
Excellent points.

When one is used to being a Type A and living with one, it takes a concentrated effort to step back. We find the solution for us is to leave for a week or two and go to another culture entirely. It really opens your eyes as to what is really important.

Jill

This was a wonderful post, Grace. Thanks for your words of wisdom and the encouragement — your point about opportunities arising from the recognition of work and not luck is greatly helpful to me right now!

Rachel

Great advice! I plan to take it today, playing the “yes, then no” card with a project I’ve been working on for more than a year. It no longer inspires me and I find myself resenting it whenever it is time to work on it again. Looking forward to saying adiós to this niggling project, without regrets!

Grace Bonney

thanks kelly jo- i actually only still feel about 40% back to normal, so it means a lot that know that you noticed a change. thanks :)

g

lauren covington

thanks for writing this! i feel like most people who read this blog aspire to be as successful as yourself and the artists you feature so it’s nice to see a call for balance.

Sascha Mills

Well said and good for you! I think as women we are raised to say yes and that no, is a bad word. It’s not. It ends up being a matter of survival and if you don’t take care of yourself first, you have nothing left to give anyone else. Take care of yourself first and foremost!

Stacey

What a fantastic and deeply appreciated post, Grace – thanks so much for sharing this! wishing you everything wonderful

amy walters, aDESIGNdock

Thank you soooooooo much Grace for this post. I have struggled with this since I was old enough to make decisions. I am a YES girl and a hard-core one at that. Last year the stress of having taken on too much finally caught up with me; and, like you, I found myself in the doctor’s office wondering what’s wrong with me!
I’ve since made some drastic and some not so drastic changes in my life. But together, they’ve really put me on a better, more balanced path. I’m still trying to figure this all out and have slip-ups all the time, but I’m getting better.
Your post has really hit home and I want you to know how thankful I am that you wrote it. This post is sure to be my go-to resource when weighing different opportunities and directions for both my personal and professional life. xo

Heather

My bookclub met last night to discuss our latest read, The Happiness Project. I found myself saying that I felt my happiness used to come from saying yes to everything, but that I understood that, at this stage in my life, I could only be happy if I started to say no. I have a framework in place for making those decisions, but it is very helpful to read yours. There are excellent pieces here that will help me refine my own approach to this tricky matter. Thanks, as always, for sharing yourself as part of your work.

Amanda

Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your experience and providing a roadmap for those of us who are navigating similar issues. Here’s to a healthy, balanced 2012!

Megan Clouse (cardigan_

I LOVE this post!! I’ve been practicing “no” more and more – I need to do it for my sanity. I’m still not very good at it, so what I do if I’m asked in person or on the phone, I say “Thanks for thinking of me, let me give it some thought and I’ll get back to you.” I also have a similar checklist on my computer monitor that keeps me in check.

Lindsay

Wait! Were you talking about me?! I am working toward Duchess of No status myself. I had the most amazing year with my art career last year, but I also stressed myself into pneumonia and several other hospital visits. My New Year’s resolution was to take time off. I have scheduled my first vacation in 3 years. I don’t know what I will do yet, but just marking this time for me and only me is such a big step. Your post is being bookmarked and shared.

Jamie

Grace, this was such a blessing to me, particularly the part about the fear of missing opportunities. I am adjusting to being a stay at home mom, and often feel like the world is passing me by and I’m stuck with my hands tied behind my back (no offense to people who wish this was their lot in life, I am so grateful for my son, just struggling!). Your perspective tells me i can pick up other dreams again one day and work hard to get new opportunities I feel like I’m missing now. I eat up all your design posts, but this post helped me on another level.

Liz

Oh, girl, you hit the nail on the head for me. I’m there. All of it. Right there with you. I’m more stressed out than I’ve ever been in my life… ironically, I quit my full-time “regular” job to do something I love. I still love it, but it is 80% stress and 20% enjoyment now. That’s sad. And I think a lot of it is my being so worried about what people will think if I say “no,” if I stick to my prices, if I don’t give discounts, if I can’t squeeze in a third session today, if I won’t travel to North Dakota without charging travel…. etc., etc., etc. I am at that pivotal point where if I don’t start saying no and then putting it behind me, my business (and I) are going to fall flat on our faces. Thanks for writing this post. I’ll take it to heart.

Paige :: approaching joy

Like so many other commenters I can totally relate!
I’ve recently realized that my “yes girl’ come from a desire to have “everyone” like me and, let’s just get real, that’s. It always going to be the case. Thanks for sharing your story and your solution so we can start figuring out our own.

Grace Bonney

lindsay-

you hit the nail on the head. 2011 was probably the best year of my work life (in a conventional sense) but was the worst year of my life, personally. i hate and really, really regret that i neglected myself so much that i wasn’t able to enjoy so many of the successes i’d worked hard to achieve. that juxtaposition of high and low in one year really showed me that i needed to pay attention to my health and happiness or all the hard work was for nothing. because what is the point of success if you can’t enjoy it?

grace

Shana

Amazing post Grace.. Thanks for confirming that it’s ok to say “No” once in a while and making me realize I need to step back and think about my situation. Stress sucks!

Emily Fleak

This is a subject that needs to be shouted from the rooftop! I unfortunately learned this all too late, and it will now take me a lot longer to recover then if I had listened to the gentle wispers along the way. We work SO hard to get to what we define success to be, and along the way sacrifice our family, friends, health and the business we are buidling. If you do not head the message you will end up crashing and lose EVERYTHING. Was it all worth it then if all you have left is the shell of a crumbling business, you are in a hospital sick, and you are divorced?

Liz

You said it sister! This is exactly what I’ve experienced over the years. It took me being pregnant to realize that my time was about to be even more valuable. I cut back (and cut out) a ton of work – but I needed to stick to what I wanted to do, not what an industry or wholesalers expected of me.
Thanks for this reminder!
Liz

Kate

The best thing I ever did was learn how to stay no or step away from projects when the time was right. It makes the rest of my work so fruitful and ENJOYABLE. Bravo for a fabulous post!

French furniture

wow, you really took your time to write this post. It must have been a introspective journey for you. Congratulations for your achievements.

Jackie

Grace, This is so well written. I am in the very early and exciting stages of my business where I just want to say yes to everything. I hope your advice will put me on the right path from the beginning. Thank you!

kathleen

Wow. You rock! I lived a very stressful job as an ESL teacher for 10+ years which was really teaching+social work = constant stress with a few creative projects thrown in for added stress. Four years ago I contracted viral meningitis which put me down for 4 months in bed full time and another year part time. If I did anything stressful – walk in the wind, multi-task, drive my car a mile – I was back in bed with exhaustion – both physical & mental. Diagnosis was to not be stressed. So, no more teaching and a constant reminder to simplify, delegate, take on what I love and be kind to others. Am in the midst of starting a jam & pickle business so I can do what I want on my time. I wish you well!

Abby Grace

This is such a perfect post. As a n00b wedding photographer, I felt like I needed to book every bride and groom that came my way. It didn’t help me at all- it ended up hurting my business and frustrating me more than anything. The first time I said “no” was the biggest and best thing I could have done for my business. I discovered that doing what was best for others (pointing them to a photographer that DID fit with their style and needs) usually resulted in what was best for my business.

Robin Plemmons

SO. HELPFUL. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge, Grace. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Saying no is not in my nature at all but it’s just going to keep holding me back if I can’t learn when it’s right to say it.

Andrea

Amen! I’m going to bookmark this to refer to. I have become very good at saying NO in my personal life. It took awhile for family members to get used to it, because I was a YES person all my life. Now they’re used to it and I feel better about what I spend time on. Now I just have to figure out how to do this in my work life. One thing that I’ve learned to do, when you don’t feel that you can say no (this is for those of us who are still employees, not the self-employed), is to ask for help in prioritizing. Often times it’s not clear just how busy you are, but if you say it aloud and lay out the list of things that you have going on, then not only can you realize how much you do but your boss is reminded, too, and all of those must-do tasks will often turn into less urgent tasks. Don’t be afraid to say, “yes, but….”

Juliette

I also would like to say I’ve noticed a real chang6e for the better in the last few months here on the D*S; it’s like it has it’s life back in it again. I really think taking care of yourself shows and this post -so awesome btw- is a testimony to that.

Thanks for this post and all the solid tips and reminders. I just stopped working weekends after doing that for nearly 6mo and it has already made a huge difference. I have time to generate ideas instead of just being a machine.

Chedva

Wow, Grace, thanks for this post. I too have been Queen of Yes and working towards Duchess of No status after it took me weeks and weeks to recover from a stupid cold this winter, just because I kept working myself crazy and not giving myself enough sleep over all those projects I was too scared to say no to (what if I don’t get this opportunity again? What if they won’t want to work with me in the future? Don’t I HAVE to seize the momentum) and of course, it was never worth it. Now my rule of thumb is it’s only worth it if I either gain a lot from the experience (not necessarily financially) or if it’s something I’m really excited to do.

Elizabeth

Grace, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. You are truly an amazing woman! I had my son almost two years ago and I have been struggling to get my life back as an artist. My fear was the same, that I would get to the point where being high strung and stressed was “normal”. I didn’t want that effecting my life and those in it, especially my son. Creating things gives me purpose, vigor even. I know in my gut, having time to do so can and will make me a better mother, wife and person. This process of work/life balance however has been overwhelming for me and I had no idea where to start. Your words have taught me, I need to start with “No”. This post transcends BIZ LADIES as it is helpful to all our lives. Much love on your continued path to health, happiness and success. Thank so much:)

Tamara

this is SUCH an amazing post! i’m forwarding it to all my friends :)

Kinga

Oh Grace, your posts are so timely…always!
In business (and I guess in life in general) we are expected to live up to the mantra “Do what you say you’re going to do”…which is logical right? To be successful in business you have to deliver what you say you’ll deliver. This is what causes me stress because I can’t do everything and have in the past flaked on a few projects because I had said yes to too many things and had too much on my plate which then caused guilt and perpetuated stress… so I’m learning to say no…

If I say no to a few projects it means I don’t have ten million things on the go so the things I said yes to can get done. Just last week I said no to three things and at first it felt wierd but now I feel like I can breathe…

Thanks for all of the advice and for sharing so candidly…you are helping soooooo many people by sharing your struggle. Best wishes!

DoBatsEatCats

Oh my gosh. This is SO relevant to me right now. I’ve been self-employed/freelance full-time since last summer. And I’ve kept saying yes and yes and yes until I suddenly realized I’m now juggling FOUR gigs including my own business. I’m constantly working, exhausted all the time and whenever I’m working on one gig I’m inwardly freaking out re what’s not getting done on the other three.

For me, the path of say no –> lose out on money –> can’t pay bills –> foreclosure –> bag lady is frighteningly short! I know that thinking is unrealistic — it’s totally my lizard brain telling me that this is the ONLY MONEY MAKING OPPORTUNITY EVER.

Funny, though, how I was just thinking this morning that I was frustrated with one of my gigs… and the thought “you know, you could just stop doing it” popped into my head unbidden.

Anyway, lots of great points in this post and in the comments. I’ve been feeling a distinct lack of inspiration lately and I think my overscheduled-ness is to blame. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me before now.

Alison

Thank you for this post! I have the hardest time saying no (even to myself). This will be a great article to refer to whenever I feel the urge to say yes to something I know in my gut should be a no.

robin @ the balanced Life

Grace thank you, thank you, thank you. This post is fantastic and speaks to me right where I’m at with my business. I also can relate to your health scare and appreciating you sharing the story of what it can do for your health. I see this with my clients all the time – stress manifesting in the body – and it’s real and it’s important to care for. I just wrote a post about it today. Thank you for these tips – I will definitely be using your system soon.
~Robin

Jessica W.

Thanks so much for this! After 6 months of working a 9-5, then working on my own business from 6- 4 (yes, 6 PM to 4 AM), I ended up dealing with panic attacks and finally a uterine fibroid that required a major operation and 6 weeks off of work. It was a huge wake up call, and I realized my husband was right all along, everyone needs sleep and a beach day (or snow day, or bike day :)), no matter how important your work is. You are your biggest asset. And #2 is such a valid and important point, I’ve been seeing it ring more and more true in my life. Thanks so much for the clear & concise reminders, I hope you are back to 100% ASAP!

al

your post reminds me of a personal experience.
last year, our little town had the good fortune to welcome the dalai lama, sister helen prejean, and vincent harding to our university campus.
i took my 13 year-old son out of school to go hear the lecture on non-violence.
he fell asleep across my lap.
when the lecture was over, i woke my son, and he said:
“i’m sorry i fell asleep. it’s just that they were saying stuff that is really obvious.”
you, grace, have shared “obvious” knowledge with us–obvious, but stuff we adults seem to always forget. thanks.

Laura

I ended up covered in a rash for 4 days in order to realize that what I was doing as a business owner wasn’t working.

Saying ‘no’ was the best decision I’ve ever made for my business because it allowed me to focus on the clients that really mattered to me.

Well said and thank you for the reminder! Biz Ladies has become my go-to source.

Jessika

Thank you so much Grace! Your willingness to be open and vulnerable while sharing strategies/skills is just one of the reasons you are one of my top blogging inspirations. What we present to the world is not a complete picture of who we are or where we are at-so much goes on behind the scenes in our personal/professional lives. Success is hard/stressful work and I can only imagine how much pressure you are under as a leader online.

I deeply respect your sharing this story with us so that we can a.) see how even the most successful entrepreneurs still struggle b.) the vital importance of self-care and setting boundaries and c.) how powerful being transparent about our difficulties is.

Thank you for all you do-I hope you treat yourself with love moving forward so we can continue to be graced (ha!) by what you share with us.

Nicole

Thank you so much for writing this, Grace. This has to be my all-time favorite Biz Ladies post (and I have a lot of faves from this column!) I took steps in the right direction on the saying “no” front in 2011, and the amazing thing to me has been how quickly — after stressing and hemming and hawing before finally saying no — I then forget about the whole thing. Great relief and then poof! it’s gone from my brain. I will revisit your words often for reinforcements!

stef

Your comment that opportunities aren’t necessarily luck, but the result of hard work is immensely helpful right now. I feel like I’m in the beginning stages so I have to seize everything that comes along in the hopes it’ll be the one “big thing” that gets me out to a bigger audience. In reality though, the little “breaks” I’ve gotten so far have been the result of ME making the first move. I guess it’s not luck, just a positive reaction to what I’ve put out there.

So yeah, that’s really just a lot about me, but its because your words resonated and now I’m thinking back through the past few weeks/months. Thanks for your message. It’s all around hugely helpful and inspiring.

jaine {brklynview}

very insightful and honest. thank you Grace for sharing… it really helps when you’re working on your business 100% of the time and forget to take of yourself!

Christina

Most. Helpful. Biz. Ladies. Post. Yet. Thank you Thank you, Grace. I have bookmarked this post, I love the idea of the canned “no” response and have already started working on my own.

I received some unexpected press at the end of the year in 2011 which has lead to a HUGE boost in my business. I found that I couldn’t say yes to everything anymore and while finding the right words to say no took a lot of time initially, I was happier later on. I actually took off THREE days over the holidays and did not check my email once!

I’m happy for the additional advice as I work on my skill in saying no.

margy

Grace, this is a really terrific — and timely — post. As I write this, I’m trying to calm the rolling, stabbing stomach pains that I have created for myself over “opportunity.” Without going into detail, the part in your note about a book deal and weighing stress vs reward pretty much sums up my week. Thank you for the push back suggestion. I was raised to do my best in all things, but sometimes…it’s good enough to say it’s good enough. Followed by thanks but no thanks. But it’s so, so, so difficult to put into action. I’m printing your post now so can look at it every time I sit at my desk. Thanks again.

patricia

Thanks for the words of wisdom grace. and thank you for your honesty & sharing this with all of us. You are a inspiration and I hope that you continue to find your balance in all that you do.

Carin

You’re simply great, Grace. You embody your name. Thank you for these reminders. I may bookmark this one.

Darcy

This is sooo timely. Thanks for the permission to say yes and then No. I’ve been battling stomach pains for the last 3 days fretting about saying to No to a project I already said yes to.

Monica

This is a really great, great post. Clearly so many other people have identified with this, so I just wanted to add my hat to the pile. Stress sucks, we all internalize it in different, horrible ways – best to keep the eye on the prize and remember what’s important in life! Thanks for this.

Tania

Grace, thank you so much for this post (& this column, it is one of my favorite resources). I’m a startup blogger and have recently reached a turning point where my page views have started to grow and a few opportunities are coming my way. So, this post is perfect timing, I just went through my own sitting down and establishing priorities so that blogging remains enjoyable as I was feeling a bit burnt out. I was also very sick for the entire month of January (the most stressful time for my day job) and have no doubt the self imposed busy blogging schedule plus work demands affected my immune system.

I’ve learned these lessons in my day job as a financial controller but somehow had to relearn the art of saying no and prioritizing in my experience as a blogger/writer. As you said it can be difficult to turn down an opportunity. I’m not 22 and don’t have boundless energy any more. I have a demanding full time job and blogging is my very time consuming but very satisfying hobby. There is the art of saying no but I’ve also started to set personal limits on my own time. I only tackle one non-writing “to do” per week (what I like to think of as backoffice tasks) and I put daily limits on social media and blog hopping. I also go black one weekend a month, no internet. I ensure I have time each day to read actual books and just relax.

Another important thing that I did is determined what I will and will not do on my blog. I decided sidebar ads are desirable but I did not what any paid links or sponsored posts in my post content. I also decided no contests or giveaways. By setting out my terms, I’ve already made it much easier to say no to certain offers.

Thanks again Grace & I’m glad you are taking care of yourself!

Jennifer Duchene

Dear Grace, I admire your courage to both decide how you want to live and run your biz and in sharing what must have been a tough journey. Its easy to forget our bodies in the workoverload especially since so many of us work from home. I wrote a book recently for women “Le Chic Cocoon” its really speaks to this, because I believe every woman needs a space to retreat to, that reflects who she is, a space that is free of task and work. Would love to send you a copy if you are at all interested. No strings attached. I am ready to get a no and open for a yes. (send me an email if you want a copy) You talk about things that are so essential for women, not just in the work space but in the life space. So glad you are on your way!

Cheryl

Thanks Grace for writing on this. I always look forward to the weekly biz lady posts! I’m trying to get my business off the ground and have been faced with certain projects/clients that don’t gel with what I want my brand to be remembered for. Plus I always have this feeling that I’m not truly productive unless I’m juggling lots of different things at the same time. So your tips definitely will help me through some of the issue that I’m dealing with! Thanks!

Maryke

Great timing. I’ve been delaying a quote for almost two weeks because I really didn’t see where I was going to find the time to make the order….but felt so quilty to let a distant family member down. I finally sent the mail this morning with dread at what they may say, but after reading your post realised that it’s OK. There’s a weight off my shoulders. Thank you.

Bonnie

This was great, especially the advice to begin and end courteously when you’re saying no. Holding everything in until you start screaming and burning bridges (my usual inclination) is not helpful to anyone.

Nina

Thank you so much Grace, for sharing your experiences with all of us!! I’m particularly thankful for the yes/no scheme you sketched out, it’s fantastic!

Lilla Rogers

This is so wonderful, Grace! I think in part it’s because creative women have never had so many opportunities. So after years of trying so hard to get work, we find that we can now switch gears. Thank you so much for your wisdom!

Jennie {Love 'n Fresh Flowers}

You are amazing, Grace! You always inspire me to be a better business woman and artist, and this post is no exception. 2011 was a huge growing year from my little flower farm too. By October though, I was in bad shape. My own mother suggested I might want to check myself into a mental health clinic (only she used the words “crazy house”, I kid you not) because I couldn’t remember simple things like my brother’s name or what I had just eaten for lunch. I rested a bit over the winter but spring is just about to steamroll ahead. Reading this post at this critical juncture reminds me to put on the brakes before I end up back in the same situation. I love what I do. I am constantly amazed and humbled that my business brings happiness to so many people. But I need the energy and passion to sustain that. I need to carve out at least one day of the week to myself… I’m off to craft my canned Gmail “no” response. Thank you!!! xoxo

Susan

While I’m not a conventional artist in the way most of you are, I own a cafe and catering business. Your post hit home for me, making me think about all the things I do because I said “yes” when I should have said “no”, and the drain those cowardly decisions place on my personal life. I am printing our your words of wisdom and taping them on my mirror so I see them every morning before I leave for work!

maria

Wonderful post, Grace. I am so glad I’m not alone on the health front. I ended up in the ER early December due to chest pains and at the doctor again in January for other symptoms. Diagnosis for both was stress and anxiety. I couldn’t believe it because I had no idea those two things could lead to my body breaking down. It’s been a struggle, but I’m finding ways to cope and recover…and the most important and effective way for me is to make sure I have “me” time. And to not make myself feel I have to take every opportunity to get ahead, as some don’t actually put you ahead, professionally or personally. Two weeks ago, I was offered an onsite freelance gig that I was over qualified for, but since my schedule was open, I thought I should take it because low money is better than no money, right? But then I asked myself if this job would get me ahead in my career and contribute to landing future jobs and the answer was no. It was something I was going to have to do for 4 weeks at 40 hours per week – to not even get ahead professionally and add stress to my plate (working for low pay and not getting ahead and no time fo other possible jobs). So I determined it wasn’t worth my time, my energy, my worry, my health. I have never said no in two years. And it felt amazing. Since my door was open still because I turned it down, I’ve been able to welcome in something else that inspires me and moves me forward and keeps my health in tact! :-) thank you for sharing your story and for the smart advice.

Jen

This incredible blog post could not have come at a better time for me! I have been receiving an increasing amount of new work opportunities, yet they would be a lot of work for the amount I would earn. I’ve hesitated to accept them, because I know my talents are worth more than what they offered. It was validating to read that those are indications that I am on the right track, and there will be more (and hopefully better) offers. Thank you, Grace, for this gem of wisdom!!

Cate

Dear Grace, I say this with LOVE: You were LYING in bed, not “laying” – unless you are part chicken!

maria

I sure am! Thank you. My goal is to never be sick from work and stress ever again. It’s all about balance.

Sarah @ My First Little Place

This ia a really fabulous post. I recently had to confront this exact thing when I was asked by my CEO to take a position in another state for 2 years. At first I didn’t really know why but I said no I think I wasnt sure If I wanted to commit to the 2 years away. But I can’t believe I said no …. To my CEO !! I thought that’s it, my career with this company is done caput! But I was ok with it and had no regrets. Surprisingly a few weeks later I got another call and they came back to renegotiate! I was in shock! But this time I accepted because I knew I was in control of what I wanted and I then really understood my value with the company, I felt empowered. So empowered that in a week I am making that move for my job but am also going to start my own business!! Saying no can give you the confidence you really need sometimes!
Thanks for he inspiring post :)

Odette

It’s almost like the Yes phase is enviable to any hard working, ambitious, entrepreneur but the ultimate goal is to get it to the No phase. This is a post that you make a copy of and put on your corkboard. Thank you.

Grace Bonney

odette-

agreed. i think i used to wear “i work all day and never ever rest” as a badge of pride. i now realize it’s not something to be proud of, but rather a phase to work through until you can get to a place where you can be more balanced. that badge will eventually wear you down to nothing :(

grace

Cat

Thanks so much for the post Grace. I think this is an issue that hits home for many, many women – those who have their own businesses and also those who don’t. As a working mom, I definitely relate to much of what you’re saying in terms of the work life balance, and making decisions not just based on the health on my career, but also on the health of my family and myself… For me, the tricky thing often is figuring out where those lines are (i.e. working helps me support my family, so in many ways I’m taking care of my son by succeeding at work, but it also takes me away from him more than I want) but I find it so valuable to be a part of these conversations on balancing a successful career with a happy, healthy personal life. It’s a constant balancing act, and personally I feel better knowing that I’m not the only one dealing with the same issues. Speaking of which – I saw Real Simple hosting a similar twitter conversation this morning on women and time.There were some interesting thoughts there on not being afraid to ask for or make room for flexibility in your work schedule, because we’re often more productive when we’re able to balance priorities at home. You can follow it on their feed, and apparently they will be sharing more on their site in the next couple of weeks.
Thanks again Grace for opening up this conversation here. Really hoping things continue to get better for you this year!

boo louis

Thanks! This post reassured me that “Yes, then No” isn’t a total no-no.

Having just been in a sticky-wicket (backing out of a high-profile but poorly managed and highly-disorganized project) I can report that it ended up being hugely empowering. This dream job turned nightmare gave me a chance to reflect on my limits, expectations and to stay strong with the notion that respecting myself (saying no) wasn’t career suicide. au contraire….

Pak

Great post, Grace! I learned this lesson early in life when I was at art school. I had a part-time job at the school while attending classes. In order to get health insurance, I started working full-time along with taking classes. I was never so sick – so stressed with trying to make it all work, that I made myself ill…for health insurance! Oh, the irony….

Celia

Powerful, succinct, heartfelt. Thank you! I am so impressed that you are learning this lesson early on, paying attention to your body, and taking the health of your business and self seriously. WELL DONE!!! Learn to gracefully pass – grace yourself and respect the opportunity to stay well.

Tawna Allred

Grace,
What a wonderful post! I’ve done this to myself several times, and I’m going to print this off and look at it once in awhile. I’m just starting my business (it’s just two years old), and I’m full of passion and drive. But….I have three kids and a cute hubby and I’m not sure where it all will take me. Having this post to look at will help me. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I was considering going after a large opportunity recently (I mean, how do you ever get your name out there if you don’t; that has been my thinking) and letting it slide feels good. I love what I do, but I know there needs to be boundaries. Thanks…..

Amy

Thank you, Grace, for such a well-written, well-put piece that is as relevant to life as it is to work. I got shingles a few months ago ( gone now), and realized I was under the delusion that I wasn’t under stress– having five friends undergoing breast cancer treatment, a family member undergoing colon cancer treatment, and renovating a house all at the same time. I thought I was managing quite nicely and it was a real eye-opener and dramatic reminder to step back and take a moment for myself. Not finishing a bathroom by a self-assigned date wasn’t life and death, and neither was moving in later than we want to. Renovating a house that’s taking a longer time than expected makes it easy to say NO on one level—we just don’t have the time and we think every time we go out that’s one day later that we can move in (which thinking in of itself perpetuates the stress). On another, it’s made it obvious what not to take for granted – socializing and cooking with friends, spontaneous trips and nights out, vacations—since we haven’t had any of that since last July. We are looking forward to a long stretch of saying YES after saying NO for so long, and we will value every single one!

Cathy

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have taken all those emotions/feelings that I have had running around in my head and heart, and gave them a voice. You wrote this with great feeling and practicality and I will forever be in your debt.

alisha

Thanks so much for sharing this! I had a similar experience when I was 25 — my face went fuzzy for about a month straight and I was freaking out. An MRI came out clean and the neurologist thought it was related to migraine-aura, but couldn’t really give me a solution. At the time I didn’t see how stressed I was (it’s always difficult to see!) but now I know that was totally it. That experience has totally informed how I approach opportunities, because I’ve also struggled to take care of myself and recognize that I am not super-human. Thanks for your honesty. I wish more people would admit that being successful can be stressful rather than pretending it’s all so effortless. :)

Meg

This was such an excellent post! Thank you for your insight!

Elizabeth

Talk about perfect timing. My own “yes-woman” mother had half a lung removed and still tried to keep an overseas research trip a week later! (I counseled, she canceled.) Ladies, if you’re looking for some light reading to help you say no, I highly recommend Entres Nous by Debra Ollivier, and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It by Frankel and Frohlinger.

jess

Thanks so much for this great post, Grace. I feel like a large part of the Yes problem is that as women, we are conditioned to put ourselves last. It’s not necessarily a completely conscious act, but learning to say No is not something that girls are taught. I don’t have any research on hand about this, but it seems like a theme that comes up again and again for women — the balancing act of life seems to be more difficult for a lot of us because of the urge to say Yes.

Jess

Wow! This is so timely to my life right now. Just yesterday I was working on a project that was life sucking. In the middle of the project I checked my e-mail and I had received two e-mails from ghosts-of-projects past. Both were regarding commitments that I was slacking on. There has been no passion in me to do them and I have been putting them off. I’ve simply been saying Yes way too much and it leaves me feeling internally angry and bitter. What I want to be doing is working on my own painting, but can’t seem to find the time because I’m too busy saying YES to everybody else. THANK YOU GRACE for your sharing your experience and offering some real solutions I can implement. I’m going to print this post out and put it on my wall in front of my face.

Kellie | Safari Fusion

Oh my goodness, how timely is this blog posting! Thanks so much for sharing. I am sitting here typing with my back frozen up and a tense jaw which means my body is telling me I am in desperate need of some down time (yes I have been in this place before and now recognise the symptoms!). I have already booked in for some me time at my favourite local spa, but will also make sure I take some time out to ‘smell the roses’ during my work day more often as well. Thank you for the timely reminder :)

Also the way I think of the word ‘no’ is not as a negative or a let down, instead I think of it as ‘I made a choice; even though it may be a great idea or I would love to be involved, it doesn’t work for me at this point in time’.

Sara Heitz

I read your site for the first time tonight…. I find it hard to believe Oprah hasn’t called yet. Her peeps are usually on top of things.

This note from you is amazing. Above all, thank you for sharing your wisdom so freely and honestly. Only good will come to you for that.

This article is also timely for me. I quit my corporate job in November. After 14 years, I have alot of R&R to make up for. Not really just R&R time, but time for me. I spent insane amounts of time over the last 14 years slaving away for others. To me, your article isn’t so much saying NO to others as it is saying YES to me and my priorities.

Thank you again for sharing, and I wish you the very BEST in staying true to YOU.

Preeti

Genius post, and it totally hits the spot. I’m a freelance journalist who always takes too much work on (because a tiny, panicked voice in my ear says “what if it dries up one day?!) and have been feeling overwhelmed for a long while. I’m now at a high point in my career, and have been asked to join some major projects, and travel all around the world. Ironically, the associated stress has been off the chart, and is manifesting in slightly scary ways – crazy mood swings and endless crying – which, apart from freaking out my boyfriend, has also made me realise that, while my career is going great guns, this situation just can’t continue. So…. I’m taking a sabbatical later this year! I’ve been wanting to take one for years, and this year I finally understood that it’s what I need to do. I hope you continue to develop more of a work-life balance Grace. x

Roxy

Wow, how I wish I read this a few weeks ago. I said NO for the first time then, and I always felt guilty saying no, that something bad was going to happen to me or that because I turned someone away that my “business” would totally sink. I’m a freelance graphic designer and will be forever grateful for this article, I have saved it on my desktop and will read it whenever I need some guts!!! I also had a freakish lack of vision and pains in my hands and shoulders and I thought “Ag, so what, if you don’t work hard you wont be successful so just suck it up,ok!” How mean I was (am) to myself – I have only realized after reading this. Last year I went on a Buddhist Retreat for 2 days, and the guilt I felt for not working was crazy! even in the meditations I had to repeatedly push work thoughts away (but I did send love & kindness to some tricky clients!) I have already decided to finish up early today and do some yoga in the lounge with my 2 dalmatians, and I think I will book my next retreat for a few weeks this time… Thank you Grace for inspiring me and making me feel stronger as a freelancer! :)

Rene

I have had several panic attacks/migraines since starting my business a few years ago. I finally realized it was because of stress and too many obligations. Thanks for the reminder!

Zan

Thank you so much for writing this. I have been away for work for the first time in a long time due to the flu. It has probably been the best thing to happen to me. To be away, to see which employees could handle me being gone and keep things going, to see which projects I look forward to returning to today when I return to work and which projects I now realize are not worth the time it would take to fulfill. This has been an eye opener and as far as stress, my panic attacks are horrible lately and now I see why. I haven’t been taking time for myself. And so my “self” is screaming out to me… slow down! Thank you for the article.

Justine Clay

thanks for such a thoughtful and honest post. I too preach the power of ‘No’ but as a mum just returning to work after having my first baby, I’m realizing that I don’t always put it into practice. Thanks for reminding me that I can’t do everything and shouldn’t feel obligated to try.

Jesse

Wonderful post. Of your last points, number 2 is definitely true. Not only do opportunities arise again, but they get better.

heather

This is a great post Grace- I appreciate you sharing your experiences and even including your health-scare along with it.
I think burn-out is really high amongst self-employed people. Specifically, I’ve noticed that creating a sustainable handmade business is really difficult- partly because making the work takes a lot of time, and then creating enough sales/marketing/business up-keeping is a challenging balance to keep all together. I’ve noticed my stress level with selling wholesale to shops is extremely high. I don’t say ‘yes’ to every shop that comes my way, although I feel guilty for it. Somehow I feel as though I’m turning away money when I say no. Last year I filled my largest wholesale order to date with a large retailer and while it seemed like such a great ‘gig’ and opportunity at the time, I’ve never felt so burned-out and tired, despite hiring staff to help me get the project done. There’s usually a lot more unexpected work involved in saying yes that can make or break a person’s small business- clearly it’s not for the faint of heart!

Emily @ Peck LIfe

Thanks for such a wonderful post…so much of this resonates for me right now, especially the part about taking time to take a BREAK and be re-inspired. Ohh, I hope to be doing a lot more of that this summer! Thanks as always Grace! <3

Katy

I agree with La Domestique – my favorite biz ladies so far. This has been monumentally helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

margarita

Hello Grace,
I have enjoyed reading this post very much, I appreciate the fact that you have been very honest about your own experiences as that is the best way to make a difference in other people’s lifes, well you have given me a good kick to start managing my work/life balance much better. I have mentioned you in my blog I hope it is ok. Enjoy your relaxed weekend, i am off to have some play time with my cat who is staring at me as I type this comment.
Marga

Lauren

A fabulous post, thank you for taking the time to write it. I have recently also reached the point where I find myself needing to say “no” more often than “yes” and I appreciate that you put the process so succinctly (and reminded me to use my project calendar). :)

Marialuisa

I understand you perfectly. I went through the same sympthoms 12 years ago. After several check ups (thank God nobody suggested I could have sclerosis), they found out I had stress and was suffering from a bad period of anxiety and all due to my dad´s dead 4 months before. I went to yoga classes and learnt to control myself when the worst moment of stress showed up (quick beating, the thought of having a stroke, hyperventilation…….)anyway, thanks for sharing, I´m glad you are ok now. And glad that we always learn something from any situation.
Love from the north of Spain
Marialuisa

Meg

I needed this post today. And yesterday, and the day before…
When my eyes first skimmed the page and saw MRI my heart started pounding too.
I had a similar experience last year, and I still have trouble accepting the fact that I am OKAY. I’ve been working on more sleep and less coffee, but this NO thing is kind of a revelation. Thank you for sharing so honestly.

Grace Bonney

meg

i’m sorry you had to go through the same thing- sending you lots of good wishes for health and happiness.

grace

Mariah | Oh, What Love

Such wonderful advice. I’m learning to say no, but I am a people pleaser and have a hard time turning people down. Something I will definitely need to work on. Thanks so much for sharing these steps with us!

Kim

I have read so many articles like this in my life, and they never really “stuck.” They couldn’t deflate that sense of urgency that seemed to be attached to everything.

What they all lacked was that one brilliant piece of advice: Opportunities aren’t luck, they are a result of your hard work, and you can keep creating them! That was the missing puzzle piece my brain was looking for to feel okay saying no. I’ve been trying to force myself to do it when my gut tells me to, but it is nerve wracking. Taking the urgency out of each individual offer and seeing things I can say no to as reassurances that things will be okay whether I say yes or no in a particular instance is brilliant. Thank you for this!

Lorell

Thanks for this post, Grace. I recently turned down an opportunity that came my way because I felt the situation wasn’t right for my life right now. I did feel those “what if” twinges, thinking I might be missing out. Your post was validation that I did the right thing. I’m bookmarking this post to reread again later. Your template for a “no thank you” letter is something I’ll use as a guide, when I need it again in the future.

Tahn Scoon Living

I understand what you mean by the best year and the worst year – my first book was published, which was amazing – but with a child to support on my own and no advance offered, the financial situation was dire (we moved into a friend’s place), I won’t go into the details but there were a few more challenges thrown in – and at the end of the year, I just collapsed, frightened senseless that something was severely wrong but it seems it’s just very low iron and exhaustion – and now I feel so silly for letting things get that bad and determined not to ever let myself feel that overworked again – thank you for sharing, it does help to know other women are going through similar challenges – and it doesn’t necessarily make us weak, just perhaps overworked. Tahn

Lisa

My name is Lisa and I am a “stress-aholic”!!! I have been busy in my business for nearly 11 years, and I have often worn the “too busy” label as a badge of pride, a validation I was needed, and as a sign my business was successful. I was ok for a long time to give up my me time, it all seemed worth it to grow my business! But I got TOO busy and the flexibility I loved about my day was gone, always crunching for deadlines – and the headaches started.
The last several months my husband (and partner) has been ill off and on. I wanted to be with him for doctors appointments and take some of the load off of him, keep the kids happy and busy. I put myself way down the ladder of priorities. In this case it was worth it, however the work load just never seemed to let up, the stress never let up, and the headaches became migraines. My business also took a hit around this time too – a contract that had been renewed annually for the last 10 years ended, and suddenly my income took a big hit.
I thought my world might end! But it didn’t. With the work load eased I took the time to take care of my husband the way I wanted to and we both got better. And, funnily enough my work load changed for the better. Without this major client I had more time to give my other clients who returned the “love” and gave me more projects. The big financial hit didn’t really happen after all. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. Saying No to someone or an opportunity is not the end of the world, even when someone else is saying No to YOU.
-Lisa

Barbara

… there’s a reason your name is “grace” – thank you for this awareness… this empathy.

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