The gracious refusal is a very useful skill to have. I don’t think a day goes by when something isn’t put in front of me that I just don’t have the time or inclination to be a part of. Saying “No, but thank you so much for asking” has saved me from over-committing myself more times than I can count. It can be tricky, to decline to be included in some task or event. It’s so tempting to give a reason. “I can’t because I’m busy doing ABCDEFGHI.” That opens the door for the downplaying of the level of commitment. “Oh, it won’t take much time/effort/money! You know you can spare just a little OK THANKS.” and suddenly you’re on the hook.
We all have our baggage. We may want to seem like we can handle it all, or we have unrealistic expectations of how thinly we can spread ourselves. Or maybe we just want people to like us. Whatever the reason for burying ourselves under things we said we’d do, the fact is that nobody has more than 24 hours in a day, and how you spend that time is 100% up to you. Really. No joke. Even your shitty job is a choice you made. If you’re like me, the reasons you have your job are more important to you than the job itself, and that’s OK. I choose to be in my cubicle (oh, that just kills me to write that…) for as long as necessary. It pays the bills, and that’s what we need it to do right now.
The things we agree to do in our spare time are what make us sane or crazy. Some people thrive on being busy every night AND all weekend. I say good for them. If they can keep it together while being in a million activities and groups, rock on. That ain’t me. I need to recharge at the end of the day. EVERY day. I actually remember the first time I admitted to someone (in tears, over something stupid that got way out of hand) that “sometimes I get overwhelmed” so no, I wouldn’t be able to make it to their party that night. That was a huge moment for me. Because not only did I say something out loud that I had been afraid to admit even to myself, but my friend’s response was SO AWESOME (she’s a Ninja Mom, so I shouldn’t have been surprised). She’s this Super Volunteer whose kids are well-mannered and her Christmas cards always have such great pictures. She was like “Oh, I totally understand! Stay home, get some rest, we’ll get together soon!”. And it was fine. There was no judgement. She didn’t think less of me for it. She got it.
So here’s my rule. Someone asks me to do/be/pay for/go to something I just don’t have room for. “Oh, I can’t, I’m sorry, but thank you for asking.” The ball is in their court. They can either be awesome like my friend and realize that everyone can’t do everything. OR, they can try to pitch some guilt into the equation. Ouch. Guilt is hard. They “only” need “one more person” or some such nonsense for their whatever-it-is to be perfect. That’s their issue, not yours. It’s not your job to make stuff perfect.
What are your priorities? I have a pretty good idea of what mine are. Family is number 1, and anything I need to do for my family comes first. What we NEED to do for our families can be anything. I need to keep the house picked up because it’s easier for my daughter to run around pretending she’s Tinker Bell if there isn’t a bunch of stuff all over the floor. I need to stay on top of laundry because clean T-shirts and towels make Mr Incredible happy. I need to read before bed because it helps me relax and sleep better, and EVERYBODY wins if I’m well-rested.
Nobody else can say “Oh, you don’t need to do that for your family, you should do this other thing for me instead.” Nobody would DARE say that. When someone puts their own over-commitments (come on, you know they’re over-committed too…) ahead of your priorities, that makes it easy for any guilt they throw in to be completely negated. You’re welcome.
I leave you with this Great Moment In Time Management. There are naked male bottoms, and, ahem, suggestive references. But Empress Nympho knows her limits, and she knows how to say “No.”