How to say no

Saying Yes (Means Saying No)

Over the past few years I've been more and more overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work that needs to be done. And it no longer feels like the regular ebb and flow of a busy but balanced life, it feels constant. Like a consistent pressure that finds no relief when something is finally crossed off the list. Instead it's starting to feel like the list is ever growing, the deadlines are non stop and the projects keep mounting to a near tipping point. Do you feel the same?

Enough is enough.

Which is really what prompted me to start posting here in the first place. How does one find balance when they are ambitious and driven? 

It means setting some boundaries and saying no

Which is really hard to do, especially for women, who are under a constant pressure to be in that caregiving, super woman, I-can-balance-everything and I'm-always-on-top-of-it role. Which is why I started this blog and my Minimal.art.ist Instagram. Which on the surface it might seem like I'm actually adding more to do, but for me, having a visual record of my process helps me organize and prioritize.

I've started taking things off my plate this year by asking myself some really important questions:

What's really important to me? What do I value?

How much is my time worth?

Am I doing this for love or money (or both!)?

What do I want to look back on?

What else do I want to be doing right now?

Of course these questions don't apply to everything; I'll always have to dust my things, feed the cat and do the laundry. But it really does help me step back, take a breath and look at the value of my work objectively. 

And or course, if I have less things, there is less to dust.

So for the first time as a teacher and an artist I've started saying no to things I would normally jump at. I've stopped volunteering so much, I've been focusing on one project at a time and as I read my books I send them to Goodwill (or leave them in a coffee shop/airport for someone to find). It's been a challenge to stick to especially since I've usually said yes to everything, believing the more I did the more opportunities would come my way. I know now it's important to curate my activities, to have some time where there is nothing planned and I can reflect on what I've accomplished and to look forward unburdened.

I usually spend my free time worrying about when I’m going to work next.
— Merritt Wever

Constant worry about the next item on the "to do" list is no way to live. Free time is freedom. Freedom to focus on whatever you want.

How to do it:

Start by writing down all the programs you, your partner, your children (if you have any) are actively engaged in, namely the extra curriculars. Only include the people that effect your life on this list, don't worry too much about friends, room mates and extended family (unless you are very close) are doing. Focus on you, be selfish. In that list cut off half. Just strike it out. Ask yourself the questions above, does doing that thing add value to your life? Do you look forward to it? Is it the thing you would chose to be doing right now?

This is going to take some time and will look very different for everyone. You may only be able to take off one thing, or you may mark out your whole list. Think about you and the time you are spending on the things you don't like. What can you move to the back burner, or let go of entirely? You'll be surprised the amount we think we need to be doing, but don't really want to do. By giving yourself more time to focus on the few things you are really passionate about, you are adding value to your life. 

The key thing to remember here is what adds value to your life? Not what others expect of you and not what traditionally is your role. You have the power to design your life. Why not start now?

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Thank you for reading Mininal(art)ist). Please check out my instagram for more consistent updates on my process and progress. Mahalo!

Please feel free to leave a comment below! How do you take back control over your time? How have you simplified your life this week?