How to Own Your Time By Authentically Saying No

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When my long-time, dear friend Kelly asked me if I wanted to provide a blog piece about something in my life that I have learned that could potentially resonate with other women living a similarly busy life, I have to say I was truly honoured. Having been affected many times in a positive way by what might seem like the tiniest expression, saying or quote, I have quickly realized the importance of putting things on paper; simple words have often been gifts to me sent just at the right time, when I needed them most.

So as you read this, please know that I am no author. Actually, I am literally just the opposite: an accountant who loves solving problems involving numbers. In addition to being a career driven auditor, I am a dedicated wife to my husband of 11 years and most importantly, a proud mother of two young boys who are by far the greatest gift that has ever been bestowed upon me. And very similarly to many women out there, I have struggled at various times in my life at the concept of “having it all”.

Is having it all really possible or is it just a commercialized concept that sets us up for failure? Whether it is or isn’t, I have come to accept, isn’t really the important thing for me to focus on. What is important for me to put my energy into are the things that bring me joy and contribute towards the all-around well-being of my family. The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day; this is not going to change. Whether it is continuing to climb the corporate ladder, allowing my children even more opportunities to focus on their extracurricular activities or attaining the next fitness goal I set for myself, I have had to make choices along the way about how I spend my time. Time is by far my most precious commodity and for so many years I was torn by the fact that it seems like there are simply just not enough hours in a day or enough of me to go around.

Given that growing four more arms was just not in the cards, I have had to come to accept that it is up to me to define how my time will be spent and to own this. At the end of the day I am the one who is ultimately accountable for the decisions I make. Therefore, even though it hasn’t always been easy, I do my very best to stay on track with only saying YES to things I really want to do. These are the things that truly fill my bucket. And once I’ve committed to something, I really commit. I do my best to be fully engaged and present in that moment. This is not say that at times this doesn’t require some friendly self-reminders. This does happen. But, for the most part, I don’t commit to things unless I am willing and wanting to be ALL IN. This has allowed me to let go of the resentment that sometimes would build up when I was doing things that I really didn’t want to be doing or running myself so ragged because I was trying to fit in too much.

For me, there are items that I prioritize as “non-negotiables”. These are the events or activities that don’t even require me to debate about whether a yes or no answer is required. For example, a close family member’s birthday dinner. This is not the type of item I am referring to when I talk about saying no. For each of us, these top priority events will likely look and be different. What works for one will not necessarily be an exact mould for another, but it is the concept that is still the same. If I am not certain where an item lies on my priority list, I will often do an internal check-in to see if it feels “right” before I accept or decline. Even though saying no isn’t always comfortable or an easy thing to do, if the message is delivered in an authentic and kind way, it has been my experience that this is generally well received.

By defining and owning my own time, I have empowered myself. Whether it be at work, home, or at play, those around me know that when I say I will do something they can count on the full me to show up. Not only are trust and respect a by-product, but most importantly – so is happiness.

Good luck to all of you women out there reading this blog. Please keep writing as your stories and journeys are an inspiration. The impact of just a few simple words can mean so much.