Burnout Productivity Time-Management

Say “No” and Make More Time for Your Writing (Without Feeling Bad)

Today, I’m going to show you how to stop overcommitting yourself, and make more time for writing instead.

“I don’t have time to write.”

Have you ever said that? Do you regularly squeeze writing into the evenings, weekends, or even holidays? 

I did just that, and burned out when I was a university lecturer. I struggled with the pressure to publish, was exhausted from my 6h daily commute, and felt I was failing my young children. Instead of taking time off, I worked harder — because I thought “If only I get it all done, I can relax.” That led to panic attacks, burnout, and a total breakdown. (Listen to my burnout story on the Author Revolution podcast). 

I’m going to walk through a much more helpful approach. 

And this approach will be  focused on how to confidently say “no” with your Future Self in mind.

Let’s dive in.

Saying “yes” all the time is a sign that you have lost your integrity.

With every “yes” that clutters your schedule, you make it harder for your Future Self to write (tomorrow, next week, next month).  

Here’s to change this: 

Step 1: Never answer right away

Always ask for a few days to consider a request (even if you’re asked ‘on the spot’ in an informal chat’), e.g.

  • I have to think about this and I’ll call you back this afternoon.
  • I’ll check my schedule and get back to you tomorrow.
  • Give me 10 minutes and I’ll call you right back.

Get into the habit of “pausing”. While you pause, go through step 2.

Step 2: Consider Your Future Self

Your Future Self is you a few days, weeks, months down the line. Whatever you decide today, you have to deal with later. 

When a request comes in, journal about these questions:

1. If I say “yes” today, will I support or hurt my Future Self?

2. How will my Future Self feel when I put his task on their plate?

3. If I said “no”, what priorities could my Future Self work on in peace?

Let your compassion for your Future Self be your guide–you’ll move back into integrity by protecting your needs.

For example, a client of mine was offered to organise a prestigious conference panel and publish the presentations. Sounds exciting, right? She was flattered that she was considered, and she liked those colleagues who asked. 

But it would have taken up most of her summer.

If she said “yes” today, her Future Self would regret it. Instead of finishing her book or enjoying a holiday, she would be stressed and overworked (and hate herself for her inability to “say no”).

Out of sheer compassion for her Future Self, she declined the invitation (it was uncomfortable). And then she had a relaxed summer of writing and holidays. 

Step 3: Create your decision manual for the next 90 days

Rather than waiting for yet another request, and bringing up the courage to say “no”, make a decision for the next 90 days right now (it’s easier!).

  • Your “yes” list: Think about your biggest writing priorities in the next 90 days (finishing your book, starting a new project). Write it out, and hang it above your desk.
  • Create your “no” list: Foresee any request or collaboration that might come your way. Hang this list above your desk as well.

If a new request comes in, check your lists, and give them a “yes” or “no” according to your pre-decided categories. 

It’s hard, I know

Saying “no” is uncomfortable. The participants in my 90-Day Writing Accelerator practice it as a group and celebrate their empowerment each week (get on the waitlist for the next round here).

But with every “no”, you re-negotiate your integrity.

You signal to the world around you that your needs are important, and you are evolving into your Future Self. And in my experience, people will respect you more.

Remember, every “no” is really a “yes” to become your Future Self.

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Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

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