Saying NO is not easy. At first, it is very hard and uncomfortable. Asking the critical question of what will saying yes cost me, may be what you need to evaluate the request. Saying NO may be the first time in years that you made the right choice of exercising self-care and stopping the cycle of over extension. Maybe even starting with "I cannot do that, but I can do this" as a way to say NO gently, but still honoring your time. However, make no mistake about it, you are saying NO and that may be what you need to do.
One year, my sister declared it the 'Year of the NO'. This meant that when someone asked her for something that she did not want to do, she would simply say NO with no explanation. This included requests for her to baby-sit, requests to go to lunch, request to go to home jewelry parties, whatever. NO meant NO and no explanation was offered. She would think about it for a second or two and then confidently say, NO. Her 'Year of the NO' generated some conversation, laughs and some stunned moments, however, it caught on. We all started saying just NO when we did not want to do something asked of us. Talk about liberating. No hard feelings, just the truth. Just say the word NO. Say it again. Again. Feels good, doesn't it?
As delicious as the "Year of the NO' can be, it may be a little too drastic for the workplace. However, that does not mean that you cave and take on a request you cannot deliver. How many disaster assignments occurred as a result of not saying NO? How many positions did you take because you did not want to say no. Are you happy? Have 12 hour days become your norm because you have too much on your plate? Did your inability to say NO put you in that position?
What most folks are missing is their line in the sand or boundaries. At what point is enough, enough. How do you know when an opportunity does not serve you or your company to take it on? At what point does over commitment turn into diminishing returns. How many nights of collapsing in a heap in tears must you endure to finally make a change?
What is imperative is to win back your NO. Dig it out, dust it off, and use it. Make no mistake about it that there will be folks not happy with your revived friend, but it is you that you need to protect and serve at this very moment. It is you who needs the gift. I am not encouraging you to be reckless with it, but to win back your time for doing what matters in your life. Over committing is not a core competency. It is an aggressive oppressor that needs managing. You are the gatekeeper of your precious twenty-four hours.
When you start to say NO, you may find time to reflect on what it is you truly want to do with your time. You may uncover new interests, revive old ones or remember something you loved to do that has long been forgotten. You may have the time to re-discover you. Your new NO paves the way for saying YES, to what you should be saying YES to.