If it’s not a Hell Yes, then it’s a Hell, No!

How do you find time for it all?

One of the questions that I get asked the most is Friederike, how do you find time to do it all? I’m a busy mum of 5, a business owner, a keynote speaker, a bestselling author, a wife, an avid reader, and someone who rarely (if ever) misses their morning workout. If I didn’t know the secret of how I get it all done, I’d be asking the same thing! Well, the truth is: I don’t find time for it all. I say “no” a lot and my life is better for it – and I bet that yours would be too!

No energy-management technique is more powerful than the word no.

A lot of my clients have a similar struggle – they are stressed to the max! They’ll often confide in me that they have tried everything to manage their stress. Conventional solutions like exercise, meditation, or trying to get more sleep, and even less conventional tactics like going to a rage room or changing their diets. All of these solutions help a little bit, but not enough. What gives? Well, I always tell them the same thing: “Learn to say no.”

If you are constantly overwhelmed, on the verge of burning out or worse, then you need to learn to set boundaries. This can be tough at first, but if you have a lot on your plate and it is getting unmanageable you’re never going to feel more in control by adding more to it (even if the intentions are for the best). 

Define 3 to 5 priorities in your life and say NO to everything else. 

If your job is starting to consume your life – it’s time to take a cold, hard look at what can be done to change that. The tough truth is that some of that change will have to be internal, personal work. A lot of us (and especially those of us who have high-estrogen neurosignatures) take on too much and have trouble setting boundaries. There is a guilt that comes up when we think about skipping the company happy hour, or being truthful when a coworker asks if we can co-chair a project when we are already at our capacity for the month. Perhaps there is even a fear of will they think that I am not a “team player”? Trust me when I say, I’ve been there and I get it. Navigating these tough boundary conversations can be scary at first, but you know what is even scarier? Losing yourself and your autonomy. This is where boundaries and the power of saying “No!” come in.

If they value you, they will respect your boundaries.

And if they don’t, ask yourself: is this really the most brain-friendly environment for me to be in? Are you really being supported to perform at your best? 

By setting boundaries you are actively choosing to create more autonomy in your life. You are cultivating a deeper sense of control over your environment and even your destiny. Martin Seligman, founder of the “positive psychology” movement, lists autonomy as one of three critical psychological needs (along with competence and belonging) and I could not agree more! I know from my own personal experience that once I became comfortable with saying “no” to what didn’t resonate with me, or declining to take on additional responsibilities when I knew I wouldn’t be able to deliver at my best, I began to really feel in control of my life for the first time. I was finally able to invest time and energy into the things that truly mattered and brought me joy.

Reframing a No as a positive.

A big hurdle for a lot of people when they are starting to set boundaries is getting past the idea of “letting someone down”. Many of us have been influenced by a culture which pressures us into being people-pleasers and the idea of pushing back against that can be quite destabilizing. I suggest using William Ury’s technique of the “positive no” which has 3 parts and follows a yes-no-yes structure to combat this! By using this technique, you’ll be able to confidently assert your boundary, while still offering to support the person in question in a way that is sustainable to you. Talk about autonomy, am I right!?

Here is an example that I share in The Brain-Friendly Workplace: Why Talented People Quit and How to Get Them to Stay: Imagine your boss asks you to work this weekend, but you have plans and that would be encroaching on the boundary that you have set for yourself. 

  • Start with yes: “I have an important family commitment this weekend.”
  • Then say no: “so I can’t work this weekend.”
  • Conclude with a yes that meets your boss’s needs—on your terms: “I’d be happy to work late Wednesday and Thursday to finish the project by Friday.”

By using a yes-no-yes response, you can clearly show that you are enforcing and respecting your boundaries, while at the same time being conscious of their request and offering a solution that will work for everyone.

Say goodbye to FOMO

I hope that by now you are able to better understand the power of saying “no” and why it is so important. There is no way that I could do everything that I am asked to do, and by starting to say “No.” more consistently to things that don’t bring me joy I can honestly say that my life has been fuller and richer. There is no FOMO here and my hope is that you can start to feel the same! 

What are some of the key priorities in your life? What are you going to start saying No to more?

Want more brain-friendly tips?

Check out my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The Brain-Friendly Workplace: Why Talented People Quit and How to Get Them to Stay. And if you felt inspired, please leave an Amazon review. I read every single one and would love to see yours there!

I also offer virtual keynotes to provide companies with science-based insights that you can put into practice immediately in order to work and live smarter, better, and happier. Find out more about my keynotes here

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