The art of saying No.

steve jobs

I say yes to things. To ALL the things.

To events, even when they are back to back, leaving me drained and tired. To helping out, even when I realistically have no time to give. To Tupperware parties, even when I have a drawer full of it and need no more. To projects, even when my notebooks are full of unfinished ideas. To the lady at the Myer counter when she wants to sell me hope in a jar, even though I really cannot afford it. To doing things for other people, even when it means my own business suffers from inattention.

Where do all these yeses come from? From an intense desire to be liked by everyone (which I need to tame) and a crippling fear of missing out. Those are not good reasons to say yes. I need to learn the art of saying no.

Why I am talking about saying no in a month dedicated to creativity and opening myself up to new things and new experiences? Because in order for that creativity to blossom, I need to make space. Trying to cram creativity into the small spaces between my busy busy isn’t very relaxing or productive. It doesn’t give room for ideas to soar. I don’t want my creative practice always reduced to an item on checklist, wedged between the dishes and the next appointment. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there because I haven’t made real time for it. Because I have said yes to many other things.

I have gradually begun to realise that saying yes is always balanced by a silent no to other things. Time is a finite resource. Sometimes inspiration and creativity can feel that way too. When I am busy saying yes to everyone and everything around me, I am often saying no to myself and my immediate family.  I talked a little about that here.

Some things are easy to say no to – I am not going to do the vacuuming right now, because I would rather sew. Other things are harder to say no to – when an event I really want to attend is on at the same time as another. When a charity I love and support has asked for my help but I know I have no capacity. Sometimes saying no sucks. It feels mean spirited. But in reality, a yes when I have no time to give isn’t the kind of yes I want to give. I want my yes to be fully fledged and committed. I want to be able to give a project my all. If I cannot, then it’s not really fair to the person that has asked me. Experience has taught me other people will step up and fill the hole. I am actually not the only person on earth who can do particular things. People won’t hate me for saying no and my family and my creative spirit will be grateful.

So, I am reassessing my approach to take on new things. I have made myself a helpful little decision tree.

The art of saying NoYou can click here to download the PDF version – I have it hanging in my office.

I am going to try and make a little more space in my life and see where that leads. I am going to learn the art of saying no.

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Do you struggle with saying no? How do you deal with that?


23 thoughts on “The art of saying No.

  1. I'm Sarah says:

    I am a bit of a yes person too, but in recent years I have started learning to say no – and it has made the world of difference. Love the graphic!

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks – now it’s just a matter of applying it! I really do need to shift into more a “no” or at least “not an immediate yes” mindset.

  2. Karen Lynch says:

    Great infographic Robyna! I was a yes person but I have learned the art of saying no. I used to feel guilty if I said yes to too many things and couldn’t do it all properly, so now I say yes and get behind my decisions. I read a quote the other day that, atlhough it sounds a bit selfish, the sentiment behind it is true, especially when trying to make time for yourself and your creativity: “If you want to be successful, focus on your own shit!” x

    • Robyna says:

      Hahaha. SO true though. And I really do want to give a full HELL TO THE YES! to things I really want to do, and saying yes to everything limits that.

  3. Tarnya says:

    Great infographic, Robyna. Love it. I’m a bit selfish and probably say ‘no’ more than I should. Getting the balance right is hard!

    • Robyna says:

      It is a hard balance. As long as you say yes to the things that will make you happy and enrich your and/or someone else’s life, I think.

  4. The Hipsterette says:

    I love the “yes no” flowchart too – the art of saying “no” with grace is a fine one, and one I have not yet perfected. I have to admit I recoil a bit at those people who can say “no” to almost everything – because they are so confident and self-assured of their own importance. Saying both “yes” and “no” with grace are both practiced arts.

  5. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I’m like you, I always want to please people and I have crippling FOMO. However, I’ve learned that although I can do anything, I can’t do everything. As a result, I’ve started saying no, and the more I say it, the easier it is and the better I feel about it! And I love, love, love that decision tree! Thanks for linking up to the Ultimate Rabbit Hole.

  6. [email protected] says:

    I gave myself a new years resolution to start saying no which I have tried to stick to, it’s not always easy but when I have it has made such a difference for me. Always saying yes I found I was the one who was actually missing out on enjoying special moments because I was too busy to stop for a while. Your decision tree is a great idea.

    • Robyna says:

      Oh thank you for popping by lovely, the BWP shares feel like a little invite to everyone else’s place for a cuppa don’t they?
      I really hope you find the decision tree useful – I already have.

  7. Bronnie - Maid In Australia says:

    I struggle terribly with saying no! But as I get older I am learning I have to set my limits or crash. It’s hard, and I still say yes sometimes when I mean to say no – but I am getting there. Great post.

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks. I have learned that if I want to say no, I have to say a firm no. Not an “no but” or a “yes if”, because they ALWAYS turn into yeses.

  8. nicolethebuilderswife says:

    Perfect timing for me to read your post, I am the Queen of always saying yes, and it is running me into the ground. Time to become a little more assertive for the things I want. Thank you xx

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  10. Shelley says:

    I was a big yes person until recently, when I realised the only person I ever said no to was myself. Making a little me time has changed things so much for me, and finding creative space again has helped my spirit so much.

    • Robyna says:

      That’s the thing isn’t it? It seems take us women a while to get the point when we realise all those yeses are balanced with nos (mostly to ourselves and our closest loved ones).

  11. Isabel says:

    Good on you for learning to value time for yourself/creative time just as much, if not more, than all those other things that crop up. I have the luxury of a whole lot of personal time this year, and I’m trying to make the most of it…who knows when it will come around again?! You’re a very inspiring person, Robyna.

    • Robyna says:

      Oh thank you – it’s definitely good to seize those opportunities with both hands – spare time doesn’t come along too often within our lives.

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