Balance just might be THE most important concept in life and there are many ways it can get out of tune.
Lately, I’ve had quite a few clients that come to me with time management concerns. They say they just can’t get anything done because their schedules are so busy that they are impossible to organize. When we start looking at where the time is being taken up, invariably, there’s an imbalance between things that are important to the client and things that they took on because they wanted to be nice when someone asked them for a favor. Not being able to say no is a major cause of life imbalance.
There are a lot of reasons we can’t say no; we don’t want to be selfish, it’s for a good cause, we don’t want the person asking to be mad at us, we just don’t have the nerve. Hey, I get it, I’m a recovering people pleaser. Here’s where that balance comes in again. Every time we say yes to something, we are saying no to something else, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s direct, as in “No, I can’t make Halloween decorations with my children because I told Bob’s cousin’s group I’d work at their fundraiser.” Other times, it’s more vague, such as “I really haven’t seen my spouse much for over two weeks because I’ve been trying to help Suze make a go of her networking function, I’m running the school auction, and I’ve agreed to take a couple of shifts at the food bank.”
Sometimes the requests are for noble causes and sometimes less so (I was once asked to carry around a doll for a month, taking it on adventures and documenting them with pictures and stories for an out of state family member during the time I was spending nights at the hospital and days at chemo treatment with my mom, while my own child started school and I ran around trying to make her experience as normal as possible.) The point is that we must balance the requests with our own priorities. We have to learn to do this even when there is no defined schedule conflict, or rather, especially when there’s no defined conflict (It’s easy when our calendar has the spot already blocked). My husband has a schedule that is very inflexible, so he is only off for a few hours in the afternoons and on split days off. I can generally make my own schedule, so I say no to most requests that occur during my time with my husband. I do occasionally make exceptions, but they are made judiciously because I understand that even if we have no set plans, I want to keep the space for my relationship.
When we look at things as saying YES to our lives, our families, and our own priorities we realize that it’s not negative or selfish to say NO to other people’s requests when we should. When we begin to choose how to spend our time and energy, balance comes back to our lives.