Early in my career, I put considerable pressure on myself to “do it all.” If I didn’t have every minute of my day filled with something I considered productive, I felt guilty. This caused me to say yes to everything…board seats, volunteer opportunities, meetings at all times of the day, working long hours…you get the point. I was constantly on the go and while doing all of these things brought me some fulfilment, I was always stressed.
In 2012 when I got pregnant, I decided to change all of this. To me, there is nothing more important that raising an engaged, happy child and nurturing my family. But I also had a demanding job (that I loved) which required a lot of my time and attention. How would I balance these two very important things competing for my time? The only way was to ‘just say no’ to anything that wasn’t family or StoneAge related.
By the time Jack was born at the end of 2012, I had cleared my plate. This was not easy as I felt obligated and responsible for several of the organizations I was involved with. But I also had a deep sense of relief. It felt good to have time to be a mom and a wife, not that I had much of a choice since a newborn doesn’t care if you have work to do or meetings to go to.
Over the last three years, I have stayed true to this commitment (for the most part) and some pretty amazing things have happened. I get to take Jack to school almost every day and play with him when I get home from work. I eat dinner with my family almost every night. I have a great relationship with my husband. I spend time with my mom. I take care of myself by meditating and getting regular massages and acupuncture treatments. I trail run, ride my mountain bike/snowboard (depends on the season), and workout out which is a must for stress relief and fun. I have time to think about StoneAge’s strategy, culture, and growth. I go to work feeling energized and excited about my day. I read books, one of my favorite past times. I have time to speak publicly which is incredibly rewarding. And I am now writing again, something I love to do but just haven’t made time for. And sometimes I just sit with a cup of coffee and look out the window, feeling content that I am not doing anything at all except just being.
Sure I am busy and I work hard. I still make trade-offs and there are times when I have to put work in front of my family. But my life is balanced and I only say yes to the things that are MOST important to me. I am happier and more satisfied than I’ve ever been in my life.
And I’ve gotten really good at saying no.
So where do you start? My suggestion is to make a list of the most important things in your life…the things that you absolutely cannot give up (i.e. family, work, health). Then make a list of what you want your future to look like. I can promise you this…to be the future version of yourself, you must have intention AND take action. If you are too busy to work on the future version of you, it will be hard to get there (for example, I want to write a book someday so I decided I had better start writing more…hence this blog). Then make a list of all the other things you do that aren’t vitally important to your life and all the things you do that don’t help you get to the future version of you. Next to each of those, list a few ways you can shed them from your life. Pick two or three to start with and just say no. It really can be that easy.
I was worried that when I stopped doing so much, people would judge me for not giving back more. Instead, every time I said no and explained why, I received a reply like this: “I wish I would have done that more often.”
Be brave, create your life, and remember, less is more.