When I started my business at 19 years old, I was so hungry to grow it that I said yes to just about any conference, any opportunity and anyone who would meet with me. Any idea I had was worth pursuing.
It worked out. I grew my business to be my full-time job out of college, and we’re now six years strong. I credit a lot of the growth to just showing up and saying yes. Opportunities couldn’t happen to me if I wasn’t there for them. For years, I’ve been armed and ready to seize every glimmer of opportunity and give it my all.
But in 2017, I found myself still saying yes — without the same energy as I did before. I would agree to meet for coffee so someone could pick my brain about their business idea when I was slammed with work. By the time I was done, my energy for my goals and dreams was depleted.
Around Thanksgiving of last year, I started to realize that saying yes to everything was putting me on a path to burnout. With still so much I wanted to do with my business, burnout was not an option. At the age of 26, I felt I should be speeding up, not slowing down. But, ironically, I realized the key to speeding up in the areas that I wanted to grow was actually taking time to slow down.
I began to think of myself every morning as a full cup of water (or cup of coffee, usually). Each effort I made that day was a drip out of that glass. When the glass was empty, I had nothing left to give for that day. With each action I took, I could mentally see the glass getting lower.
I became more selective about where I put my time and energy. Just as I might work with an accountant on allocating my funds for different projects I want to pursue, I wanted to direct my energy where it was needed. I wanted my glass each day to go toward things that meant something to me, not just because I felt like I had to say yes.
The first step to doing less is being selective about what you choose to take on. With that, I ask myself …
1. What purpose does this serve?
In years past, I was committing to things because I felt like I was supposed to or I didn’t want to say no. But, now, I ask myself what purpose does this serve? Will this help any of my goals? Will I learn? Will this help something that’s meaningful to me? Or, perhaps one of the most important questions I’ve started to ask myself, will this be fun?
If you ask yourself these questions and don’t feel compelled by your answers, it’s okay to pass. But, I also try to stay away from just transactional opportunities that serve my business or professional career. If the only reason I say yes is because I think it will be really fun, that’s a good enough reason for me!
2. Why am I afraid to say no?
One of the biggest reasons I would say yes to things I didn’t want to do was because I didn’t know how to say no. I felt like it was a slap in the face to the person who was asking and I never wanted to offend anyone. But, I’ve learned that I don’t get offended when people say no to me. In fact, I’d rather someone be honest with me than say they’ll do something and flake out later. So what was I so afraid of?
I got more comfortable with my response of thanking someone for thinking of me, passing at this time, wishing them the best of luck. Everyone might have a different way they like to let people down gently. Find what works for you and stick with that.