Creating Margin :: What Can I Say No To?

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READING TIME: 2 min.

say noWhat can I say no to?

It’s the question on my mind every August. As summer starts to wind down and all the activities and opportunities loom, I consider how to best spend my time during the next few months. What can I move off my plate? How can I create some margin in my life right now?

This annual fall practice has saved me in times of sheer exhaustion and overwhelm such as when I had a two-year-old and a newborn and my blood ran thick with caffeine to compensate for the lack of sleep. This year, I have a kindergartener, a preschooler, and a very fast-moving baby. I have multiple roles to fill; I have to be judicious with my time. While I’m not an expert juggler, I know I cannot drop certain balls, prime among them being my family. Everything else has to fit around my non-negotiables.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy and helping people and doing things and having a nice weekly routine full of fun and stimulating activities. I want my children to have wonderful opportunities that will allow them to discover their own strengths and passions. And, as a responsible adult, I know there are certain things that I have to say yes to, both for myself and my family. But I want to actively create room in my life for rest, fun, and relationships instead of filling it with empty obligations.

Deciding to Say No

Deciding what I need to say no to requires a realistic look at both my current season of life and my resources: time, money, energy. But most importantly, it makes me take a hard look at what I value most. When I am tempted to sign up for every activity and opportunity under the sun, it’s helpful to reorient around my priorities:

What are the things that are most important to me as a mother, a wife, an individual?

Will these things that I want to say yes to uphold those values, goals, and interests or will they simply be distractions?

Am I tempted to say yes to this because I feel like I should, either out of obligation or comparison, or because I truly want to?    

This often means saying no to some things that I would rather say yes to.

But it’s getting easier to say no.

Saying no creates margin, space in our schedules, budgets, minds, and relationships.

Saying no prevents burnout, enforces healthy boundaries, and creates self-discipline.

And saying no to some things allows us to say yes to other things, the things that really matter.

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