I was beginning to unravel. There were a couple happy hours a week. I was trying to promote and build an audience for my writing workshops and events. I was receiving less and less support from my son’s dad and more and more stress from his absence. My income was robust, but my money was funnier than Tiffany Haddish. I was spending at least 15 hours a week freelancing as a writer, and that money was swallowed up with conveniences like going out to eat several times a week because I was never home. I found myself with a packed social schedule, while rearing a toddler solo, a full-time job and a side hustle. Something had to give, and I was done giving my time.
I was beyond having an espresso every morning to deal with my exhaustion. My budget was busted spending money every week supporting my growing universe of associates. I was literally crawling to bed every night after collecting my kid and trying to debrief with him in the evenings. My work and life were so off balance, there was no easy fix. But then again, maybe there was.
A few years back, I had read Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes, a memoir about the superstar showrunner’s unwillingness to take career and personal risks. It was Lean In for the introverts. And though I had never been shy to attend any affair, my life had changed dramatically. Being a single mother meant that all of the networking and glad handing I was doing needed some perspective. I needed time to go to the park with my little one. I needed time to detangle my hair. I needed my coins to stretch longer. I needed time to breathe.
I had to ask myself a series of serious questions.
What are you afraid that you will miss? How are you helping yourself by helping so many others? Are you enjoying your life?
So instead of volunteering more, giving more, meeting more people, taking more risks, I decided to start saying no. And I coined 2018 as my year of no. I would not be leaning into every opportunity that passed my desk. I’d be pickier with where I’d spend my time and money. There are a few big goals I wanted to accomplish in 2018, and anything not fitting into the scope of that would be a no. An unapologetic, short and sweet no.
Women are notorious for overextending ourselves. At work, at home, in our social circles, the race to having it all in balance is throwing us totally off of ourselves. And once you throw kids in the mix, it is hard to look at your life and truly call it your own. What I had to realize is that there were more important things than social capital, especially when there’s no time to truly nurture the connections being made.
My toddler is great at saying no, over and over. For me, it took some practice. I don’t always feel good missing lunch time laugh sessions with friends because I wanted to take time to eat my salad at my desk and read a book. I’m learning how to bring my son into my social life, meeting at coffee shops and kid-friendly restaurants during the times where babysitters are scarce. And skipping happy hour can be a challenge for a social butterfly. Sometimes I’m just at home, sitting my ass down, and enjoying the cable and air conditioning I am paying for.
I am noticing my ability to make a decision is becoming easier. Whereas last year, I had to consult my counsel of girlfriends before considering a new job or project. But lately, I have been relying on my intuition and not second guessing it. As a writer, money making opportunities are always important. But this year, I made the decision to turn down a couple of big projects because the scheduling and vibe wasn’t right. I could’ve made it work, but not without stress and juggling. The money just wasn’t worth the time.
Ultimately, setting professional and personal boundaries give me more control over who and what I let into my life. a couple extra hours a week, I am able to refocus on writing what I love and spending more quality time with my son. And with a few extra coins, I’ve been able to create a plan to get out of debt and stick to it. I have a long way to go, but I feel better letting no float from my lips.
5 ways to reclaim your time:
- Send emails instead of meetings. At work and after work, sometimes a meeting can be an email…if at all possible, make the suggestion.
- Say no when it comes to lending money. This is my biggest boundary at this point in life. I am not giving away any money that I can’t afford to not get back. No more over extending my finances.
- Keep a written schedule. Invest in a cute planner and keep a detailed schedule. This has made it easier for me to say no. Because I can’t commit myself to time that I already have filled with something else. No overbooking.
- Say no then give an alternative. When it comes to friends and family, a hard no can be impossible. Saying no, then immediately offering options to reschedule
- Be honest. No, I’m tired. No, I’m broke. No, I don’t want to. Live in your truth and let your truth ride.