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The Power of Saying No and Setting Boundaries to Protect Your Time

Do you find it hard to say no? It’s okay; you can be honest here…because I know exactly what you mean. Saying no and setting boundaries around your time is difficult, right? I mean, it’s a juggling act most of the time because we are so busy as moms and business owners. Plus, we also want to make some time for ourselves and our friends. 

We feel we always need to be “on” all the time. Being available everywhere to everyone. It doesn’t take long before you start to feel you stretch yourself too thin. It’s not a good feeling, and you need to take action before you are too late, before you are on the edge of burnout. It’s time you learn to say no and set boundaries. I mean, it’s a powerful act of self-care that can transform your life and help protect your time, both personally and professionally. 

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Feeling Guilty or Afraid to Hurt People When You Say No

Sometimes, you don’t say no when you actually need to because you might feel guilty or because you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. That’s understandable. Here are a few reasons for this guilt raising its ugly head. 

You learned to behave like this. Maybe when you were raised, you learned to prioritize others’ needs before your own. To say yes to every request and be nice and agreeable. When you then want to say no, it doesn’t sit right, and it leads to guilt. 

You’re afraid of rejection. It could be that you are worried people won’t like you anymore when you say no to them. You might think that your relationship will suffer, and that’s why you keep saying yes all the time.

You are a people-pleaser. You can’t get it over your lips to say no because you don’t want to hurt somebody. You want to see them as happy as possible, and with you saying no, that is not going to happen. You don’t want to disappoint the other person, so you say yes at your own expense.

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You find conflict difficult. It’s hard to say no, and disagreeing with someone can feel uncomfortable. It’s easier to keep everybody happy and smiling, even if it means you sacrifice your own well-being.

You’re not confident. Maybe you just don’t feel quite sure you deserve to say no. If you’re struggling with self-doubt, it can be hard to believe that your needs matter too. Remember, saying no isn’t about putting yourself first, it’s about creating space to take care of yourself so you can show up fully for others when you do say yes.

Strategies to Tackle the Guilt and Fear to Say No

Now, we need to get that guilt and fear under control. So what can we do to feel less guilty so we can protect our time? Here are a couple of strategies.

Reframe “no” as self-care.

Think about your no as taking care of yourself. When you do that, you will have more energy and can give more to the people around you. This will, in the end, make you a better mom, partner, friend, and blogger. 

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Practice being assertive.

Being firm in your responses takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. You don’t need to apologize every time, and certainly not aggressively. But you want to be clear and say no politely.

Always stay kind.

When you are firm about saying no, say it with a smile and be respectful to the other person, just like you deserve respect. If you feel comfortable, you can explain why this time it’s a no, but that is not always necessary. 

Acknowledge their feelings.

You want to be prepared for people to be disappointed or sad. And that is only logical. But they’re their feelings, and you can’t do anything about that. And no, giving in is not the answer. It’s not your job to make them feel better. 

Prepare for Pushback.

Let’s be honest, sometimes people might be disappointed when you say no. That’s okay! Anticipate a little pushback, but don’t let it deter you. Remember, a firm but kind “no” protects your boundaries and ultimately strengthens your relationships in the long run.

It can be hard to do all of this at once. Just start with strategy number 1 and work your way through the list. Be kind to yourself, and your confidence in saying no will grow. You’ll feel less and less guilty until one day, you know by heart that it’s okay to say no. 

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The Importance and Benefits of Saying No

Essentially we want and need to protect two things that are important enough to say no from time to time. 

Protect Your Time

Your time is valuable, and you need to use it wisely. Being careful to say no to certain projects, even to yourself, will protect you from overcommitting both in your business and personal life. You don’t want to take on too many projects and risk not being able to finish them on time or sitting in your office way past your bedtime. 

The same goes for family time or spending time with friends. You want to be able to go out for a fun girls’ night with your friends or have a game night with your family. 

Protect Your Energy

Saying no also reduces your stress levels. You will feel less overwhelmed by all the things you have going on, and your to-do lists stay under control. When you are less stressed, you can focus on what truly matters in your business and your personal life. 

With fewer tasks that need to be done, you can focus all your attention on the important tasks in your business, like writing quality blog posts and creating desirable products. Your overall quality in your work will improve massively. 

With self-care, you can restore your energy. Don’t underestimate taking a day off once in a while. Go to the beach for a long walk, cuddle up with a good book, or pamper yourself with a nice spa day. You protect your energy and make space for all of this by saying no from time to time.

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How to Say No (without Explaining Yourself)

If you want to learn to say no without explaining yourself, I have some tips for you here. 

First of all, it’s important to say you’re thankful that people thought about you to help them out. That way, you initially reply to their request with a positive response. 

After that, you want to ease into the “thanks, but no thanks” part of the conversation. You could say something like, “I’m afraid I can’t” or “Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me right now”. Be careful with saying you’re sorry as that will undermine your assertiveness. It’s always good to keep the “blame”, so to speak with yourself, but there is no need to ask for their forgiveness. You want to protect your time and energy. It’s okay to expect respect for that. 

So, it is perfectly fine to leave it at that. “Thank you for thinking about me. I’m afraid I can’t right now” is a full-sized answer. 

If you do want to offer an explanation

But if you feel you want to explain a little bit more why you can’t help them out, that is totally fine, of course. You could say something like, “I have a lot on my plate right now” or “I’m prioritizing family time this week”. 

As I said before, it’s not necessary to apologize all the time. But staying friendly and positive will help in these kinds of situations. 

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Alternatives to Saying No

There are situations where you really want to help someone out, but it just doesn’t work out at the moment. You don’t want to say no, perse, but you don’t have a choice. Maybe you have something else important you need to take care of or attend to. 

Let me help you with some alternatives to saying no.

You could find another way to help out by taking something else off their plates. “I don’t have the time right now to bake cookies, but maybe I can make a few calls to help find someone who can.” This shows you are willing to help in a way that fits your schedule. 

Maybe you don’t have the expertise to help out, but you don’t want to leave them hanging. You can say something like, “That sounds like a great opportunity. Unfortunately, I don’t have the expertise in that area. Would you like me to connect you with someone who might be a better fit?” You still help them out and, at the same time, protect your time in needing to learn a new skill. 

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If you don’t have the time right now, you can offer to help out some other time. “I’m slammed this week, but next week looks a little lighter for me. Would next Tuesday work for you?”. By proposing an alternative time commitment that suits your schedule, you show you want to help out, but just not right away. 

There are situations when you don’t have your calendar with you, and you need to check it first before committing to something. Say, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you“, or ”I appreciate the offer, but I need some time to think about it. Can I give you an answer by Tuesday?”. This will buy you some time to assess your schedule without a flat-out no. 

If you are not really sure what the task they want help with entails, don’t be afraid to ask about it before you say yes. “This sounds interesting, but I want to make sure I can dedicate the time it deserves. Can you tell me a little more about the expectations?”. Asking what they need from you exactly gives you a better indication of how much time it would take you to help them out. 

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Setting Boundaries

As you can imagine, all of this has to do with setting boundaries. Boundaries around your time, but also setting emotional, physical, and even financial boundaries

Time boundaries have to do with your work-life balance and managing commitments. Emotional boundaries will protect your energy and also avoid possible toxic relationships. Physical boundaries can look like creating a space where you can write or finding some space to load your battery. Financial boundaries are about protecting your financial resources and ensuring you don’t feel pressured to spend beyond your means.

Protecting your time is important, and therefore, setting boundaries around your time is, too. It has nothing to do with pushing people away, although that’s what it can feel like, right? Instead, you’re creating a clear understanding where you and others know what they can expect from you. 

By setting boundaries and communicating them, you show the other person that you respect your time. Plus you show them by respecting your own time, it’s okay for them to do the same for themselves. It’s a two-way street.

Another positive from setting boundaries is that people know what to expect from you. They don’t come to you with a sense of, “Oh, she will probably help me” but more of “I wonder if she can help me”. 

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The same goes for setting boundaries with family members. When you have healthy boundaries in place, your loved ones understand when you’re available and when you need some space to work or to rest. I mean, when you’re rested and less stressed, you’re able to be more present and engaged during the time you spend with your peeps, right? Boundaries like these help you both feel secure and on the same page, which is great for any relationship.

Let’s look at an example: Imagine you have a friend who constantly calls you with last-minute requests, expecting you to drop everything to help. This can be draining and leave you feeling resentful. 

By setting a boundary, like politely explaining you need to plan social outings in advance and can’t always be available on short notice, you might initially feel a little awkward. However, in the long run, your friend will come to respect your schedule and appreciate the quality time you do spend together, leading to a stronger and healthier friendship.

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Maintaining Boundaries and Staying Consistent 

After you have set your boundaries, it is crucial to maintain them, not only with others but also with yourself. Remember, you have a busy life and giving in to a request when you’re tired is easily done. But it will only bite you in the behind later on. Think about these key points:

1. Clear communication. After you set your boundaries, you have to stick to them. Be clear when you say no and follow through. You don’t make exceptions unless it’s absolutely necessary. And if you do adjust a boundary, make sure to tell them it’s a one-time situation. 

2. Stay consistent. To help with this, you could create time blocks on your schedule to dedicate time to blogging, family, and self-care. By sharing this schedule, others know exactly when you will be available for certain tasks. If your family and friends know when you have to work, it’ll be easier for them to ask if you want to play a game or watch a movie with them. 

3. Be true to yourself. Knowing what your goals and values are, makes it easier to set boundaries around your time and create that time-blocked schedule we talked about. If your goal is to write and build your blog content, you’ll need to have the time to work in peace on them. Do you want to spend more time with your kids, you’ll always keep Sundays for some fun with them. Once in a while, put me-time on the calendar and treat it like any other appointment made. 

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Final Thoughts

Are you looking after your boundaries and protecting your time? It’s a good idea to reward yourself every now and then. As just another goal reached, you should be proud of yourself. And because it’s an ongoing process, a little reward sometimes will keep you motivated to protect your boundaries and say no when necessary. So go and buy yourself a nice bouquet of flowers or indulge in that extra dark chocolate bar. You deserve it!

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