Mindful Monday: Saying "no"… so that I can say "yes" to what's important

As I’m writing this I’m 30,000 feet in the air on my way home from my fifth BlogHer conference. If you’ve never been, BlogHer is basically like a yearly trade show, business conference and class reunion all in one. Over the years it’s swelled to over 3,000 attendees, hundreds of which I interact with regularly via social media, and dozens of which I would like to spend serious time with in person. Then add in the sessions, the off-site events, and the sponsor booths, and the fact that it’s always held in a fabulous place: this year, San Diego…for a distract-able person like me, the endless options are both exhilarating and frustrating. I want to go to every session, connect with all my friends, attend every party, make lots of new friends, do work-related networking, and experience the host destination…all in less than three days.

But I can’t.

I’m opening this post with my BlogHer experience because it’s a good illustration of something I struggle with often: too many options and opportunities, all of which I want to answer with “yes.” Once in a while I say “yes” because I feel guilty saying “no,” but just as often it’s because I really want to be able to do everything, and manage to delude myself into thinking it’s possible.

For this year’s BlogHer I thought hard about what I wanted to get out of the conference before I made my plans. This year I decided that really connecting with a small number of people was my number-one objective, and in order to cut out some of the temptation and background noise, I opted to only attend the expo hall and social events. I left parties early rather than exhausting myself hanging on until the bitter end. I turned down dinner meetings because I just couldn’t figure out a way to make them fit.

And while that meant I didn’t get to hang out with some people nearly enough, when I boarded the plane I felt a sense of calm and accomplishment. I’d taken in some seriously gorgeous scenery, ate fish tacos (my main culinary objective) for two dinners and a lunch, spent real time with my fabulous roommates, enjoyed relaxing, un-rushed meals with some of my favorite people plus newer friends I loved getting to know better…and managed to get in enough business to justify the trip. No, I didn’t do it all, but the things I did, I really did.

So I’m using my BlogHer experience as a model for the rest of the week, and making “Saying No” this week’s Mindful Monday intention:

WHO: Me. And, when applicable, the rest of the family.

WHAT: Say “No” more often so I can say “yes” to the most important things.

WHY: I hate missing out on fun times or opportunities. But whether it’s taking on too many assignments at once (and deluding myself that I’ll be able to get them all done during naps), or over-booking my week with social engagements, I’m learning that sometimes saying “yes” too quickly turns into saying “no” to the really important things by default. Lately I’ve said “yes” to quite a few things and then later felt frazzled and regreftul, so it seems like a good time to re-focus on what matters right now.

HOW: Saying “no” isn’t easy for a yes-woman, but there are two things I think will help:

  • Prioritize. My life isn’t perfectly balanced day by day – instead, I seem to focus more strongly on one area at a time. Sometimes, relaxing with the kids takes priority, while other weeks are all about work and still others are about getting the house in order. Since last week was work-heavy, this week is all about family for me…so I’ll keep that in mind when considering whether to say “yes” to something that comes up.
  • Think before I say “yes.” This might mean taking a day or two to consider whether I can really fit something in, instead of feeling pressured to decide right away and making sure that everything ends up on my calendar so I don’t encounter any surprises later.

Saying “no” means I will miss out on some things, but it also means that I’ll be able to say “yes” to the things that are most important to me at any given time…and better yet, really experience and enjoy those things rather than feeling distracted or torn. Maybe saying “no” to many things is why I’m leaving San Diego feeling refreshed and energized rather than as though I was just hit by a truck…and why, while I didn’t have as many experiences as I usually do, the ones I did have felt so satisfying.

How about you? Do you ever have a hard time feeling like you’re “missing out” or feel reluctant to turn down opportunities or obligations? Want to join me in making “saying no” your Mindful Monday intention?

Since reading blogs was one of the things that went on my “don’t do” list over the weekend, I didn’t have any Sunday Reads to share this week. But tomorrow I’ll do a quick recap with links to some of the fabulous, funny women I met over the weekend. Check back or subscribe to my feed if you don’t want to miss a thing!

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