How To Stop Giving Away Your Personal Power Over Your Time

Your Time Is Precious And Should Be Guarded

“There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practising saying no. Your goals depend on it!” — Jack Canfield

Thump! A pile of documents lands on Eve’s desk while she’s busy answering a backlog of emails. Moments ago, she was lamenting to a colleague how the pressure at work is mounting. “I can’t keep this up. Something has to give or I’m quitting.” “I have more work than I can handle?” she wonders, slipping between daydreaming and the reams of stacked documents that drown out her field of vision. “Why can’t I say no?” “Because you want others to like you,” a familiar voice echoes back. Eve’s predicament is one we identify with because it happens to us often. The common thread in this narrative is knowing when to say ‘no’ instead of giving in to others’ demands.

A life without problems arises when you say no to distractions. Many people struggle to say no because of an inherent need to be liked. However, this comes at a risk of being taken advantage of. It’s easy to say ‘yes,’ but when was the last time you said ‘no’ to a request from a friend or colleague? We are terrified to come across as rude, so we skirt around the issue and delay our response. Yet, this makes matters worse for ourselves. Do you know people who are comfortable saying no to demands? Consider how they take command of the situation. Assuredly, they don’t allow others to impose upon their time, which they treat as sacred.

A place where our time is often disrupted is the work environment, through emails, colleagues and our bosses’ requests. I often hear people discuss how exhausted they are at the end of a working day, having said yes to many requests. They put their own work on hold to satisfy other people’s needs. Can you identify with this narrative? I’m drawn to author Greg McKeown message in his book Essentialism in which he writes: “Every time we check email, we’re checking somebody else’s agenda.” McKeown reminds us to be mindful of our time and not to take on more than we can manage. Saying no is a war shield to fend off distractions, so you can focus on what is important.

Your time is precious and should be guarded with fiercely so others don’t encroach upon your freedom. You may have noticed every time you agree to something against your wishes, you feel bad about it later. You run through a mental dialogue about how you might have dealt with the situation. Has this happened to you? Yet, it’s too late by then. I assure you, saying no has a nobler intent than you might think. It conveys your vision or goals and you refuse to be distracted. It signifies commitment, passion and purpose and mustn’t be misinterpreted as avoidance.

Don’t Underestimate Your Self-Worth

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” — Paulo Coelho

However, beneath your inability to say no may be a strong need for acceptance that dominates your interactions with others. People will not misinterpret no as selfishness, as long as you communicate your intentions. You might acknowledge their request, yet convey you have something important to attend to and do not wish to be side-tracked. You may reconsider their request at a later stage once your work is completed. The benefit of saying no is to filter out those who infringe upon your time. For want of a better description, I call them gravediggers because they draw the life out of you!

Saying no relieves you of unwanted stress, so you don’t have to contend with conflicts in a project or invitation against your wishes. It affords you the time to attend to important life areas. Ultimately, we want to engage in more of these pursuits, instead of being obligated to please others. In some cultures, I realise, saying no is frowned upon. There is repressed anger amongst people and family members who are obliged to say yes. Let’s not mix our words — saying no is not disrespectful. You must convey your intentions in an assertive yet respectful manner to balance harmony and diplomacy.

Remember: whenever you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. You’re putting others first before your own needs, which can cause stress. The key to saying no without regret is to recognise the feelings that arise in your body during your interactions with others. Why? You become familiar with where your body holds tension and are likely to notice it the next time it arises in your contact with people. You are driven by negative reactions alerted in your body, and you avoid them by saying yes to appease others.

In Eve’s case, she coached her work colleagues how to treat her, even if she is unaware of it. She underestimated her self-worth by choosing to be liked in place of preserving her time foremost. It boils down to knowing your true worth and standing in your own power. As you do, others recognise your genuineness and will treat you accordingly. Knowing this, I want you to focus on three areas of your life where you need to define your boundaries. It might be professional, personal, social or familial. What do you need to do to reclaim your power in each setting? How might you go about doing it? You might rehearse what you wish to say to the other person. Take your time to find the right balance of diplomacy and assertiveness. By honouring your authenticity, you move from being powerless to being empowered and you’ll take command of your life by adhering to your highest values.

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