How to Say ‘No’ When You are Over-Scheduled
If you feel as if you are over-scheduled, you are not alone. Women today are typically juggling a full-time career along with family responsibilities, and responsibilities to their church or religious group, their aging parents, and to volunteer work as well. When their friends call needing a favor or wanting to spend time together, it’s difficult to tell them ‘no’ even if your schedule is already full.
There are a few ways to better manage your schedule and the demands put upon you. One thing you want to do is ensure that you are not taking on too much every single day. If your children are teens or pre-teens, they can handle many of their own household chores including making their bed, cleaning their own room, getting their breakfast, doing their own laundry, and so on. Your husband may need to take on more responsibility around the house if you are both working full time. If you are taking care of aging parents, you might do well to get help; hire a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn or have someone come in and clean their home rather than doing it yourself. Visiting nurses can help with their medical care.
If your schedule is as manageable as possible, then you need to learn the fine art of saying ‘no’ as diplomatically as possible. First be sure you have convinced yourself that you have the right to do this with friends and even family. You need to set your own priorities; work, your children, your husband, and your own family need to come first before friends, your volunteer work, and so on. Don’t feel guilty if you feel over-scheduled or can’t take on every request given to you. Remember that trying to handle too many responsibilities usually means giving little attention to everything you are doing so that nothing is handled effectively.
Next, be sure you turn down a request gently but firmly, without giving explanations or alternative. Use the word ‘unfortunately’ as this softens your response. ‘Unfortunately I just won’t be able to make a cake for your bake sale this weekend,’ or ‘Unfortunately we can’t invite your kids over this weekend.’
Chances are your friend or the other person will ask why; do not ever give them an explanation. This only gives them a chance to argue with you or try to offer alternatives. If you say, ‘I can’t bake that cake because the kids have their Scout group over,’ they may respond with, ‘Well why not have all the kids help?’ They may not realize this just makes more work for you, and this is not what you have had planned, and you are just simply too tired to bake that cake no matter what. Rather than arguing with them more, don’t offer any explanation even when asked. Simply repeat your response; ‘Unfortunately it’s just not going to work for me, but I appreciate your asking.’
It’s also good to be prepared to fend off any disrespect they may give to you because of your refusal. If they start to complain that you are not helping them, simply respond that you are sorry but you have no choice. If they become even more unpleasant and accuse you of being negligent, simply tell them that you are sorry they feel that way, and then change the subject or even better, stop the conversation.
You may need to practice this and be prepared to be firm, but it’s important to do what’s best for your health and for the benefit of your family. Sometimes you need to say ‘no’ to your friends or volunteer activity or other persons so that you can say ‘yes’ to your children, your career, and even your own health.