THE POWER OF SAYING NO SO YOU CAN SAY YES TO WHAT REALLY MATTERS

Aug 28, 2015 · 5 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

This here blog is supposed to be about finding time to do the things you love. It’s aimed at creative people who maybe have full-time jobs but still need to find time to create and make the things that fuel their passion.

For me, that means writing. It also means gardening. I’m passionate about real, organic food, and about creating something beautiful for this world.

But for a while now, I haven’t been doing much of either — hardly any gardening and not much writing. What I have been doing is reading a lot of blogs about minimalism and slowing down, and I realize that while I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things that take up space, I haven’t gotten rid of a lot of things that take up time.

The culprit for me is housework. I like a clean house. But it doesn’t happen magically, and I’m realizing just how much time I spend sweeping up dog hair, folding laundry and doing dishes (which, I’m convinced, multiply in the sink when I’m not looking).

It’s also other stuff, too — saying yes to things that will keep me from doing what I love, and consequently, leave me feeling bad about not paying attention to the things that matter most: pursuing my passions and maintaining my relationships.

So what’s a working mother to do?

What a working mother does all the time in the course of her job and being a mom: say no.

Let’s all say it together, like we’re in a slow-motion scene from a movie: Nnnnnnnnnnooooooooooo!

I can tell this is going to take some practice.

NO, I can’t go out on a work night, because if I do, I won’t get up early to write.

NO, I can’t have two glasses of wine, because they’ll make me tired and useless, and I’ll sleep poorly.

NO, I can’t go to San Francisco this weekend, because I need to amend the soil, and I don’t want to spend a day finding parking.

NO, I can’t go shopping, because have you met me? I hate shopping.

It’s not just saying no to other people, either. What will be even harder is saying no to myself:

NO, I can’t take up guitar and Arabic and pottery, because when would I? I have to concentrate on writing and gardening right now.

NO, I can’t build that chair to replace the one that broke. I haven’t needed it anyway, and it would waste precious time.

NO, to the million other things that sound like a good idea, but that really just eat up time and don’t contribute to what really matters.

It’s about focus, about eliminating distractions, and about consciousness. We need to be conscious of how we invest our time and how we consume our resources — our own personal resources and those of the planet as a whole.

I thought I had the time management thing down. Every time I came across a blog advocating eliminating something from your schedule, I thought “Psh! I don’t need that advice.”

Well, it turns out that yes. Yes, I do.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working an 8 to 5 job, even if it is a short commute. I want to cut my expenses, live simply and do what I love — write, grow food, spend time with family and friends. It seems pretty simple, but it’s harder than it looks.

So what should I do? Well, that’s a good question. I’ve taken three small steps so far:

  1. I’ve stopped drinking. I wasn’t a huge drinker to begin with, but I’d have a glass or two of wine with friends, and if I saw my friends three times in a week? The wine, it adds up. Then, of course, I’d be tired for the rest of the evening, and I wouldn’t have time to do the things I really wanted to do. Writing is more important to me than wine. At least right now. Heh.

  2. I’m going to bed earlier. The truth is, I’m useless and hungry after work, and sitting down in front of a computer is the last thing I want to do, though I can get a little physical work done. But if I want to write, I have to get up early, before the baby girl and the dog. I do a little exercise to get my blood flowing, make a pot of tea, and get to it. If I plan the night before what I’ll be working on, I don’t waste much time, and I can get straight to the work I want to do.

  3. Know what else I did? I said no to …

Wait for it …

A party.

Gasp!

Yes, that’s right. I said no to a Saturday night of dinner, drinks and dancing with the girls.

Instead, I visited my boyfriend two hours away, wrote, read and spent time with friends.

And you know what? I was OK with my weekend choices. They were fun, and by saying no to one thing, I got to say yes to other things that are important to me. See? See how that works? And let me tell you, a night out in San Francisco is no way to “cut expenses.”

The point is, saying no can be hard, but it’s possible, and it’s not terrible.

Did you all already know this? Is this a secret I’m just catching up on? Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Anyway, it’s time to refocus on making time for the things you love. I’ll be talking more about this here, especially as I start Garden, Round 2.

So tell me, what do you do to stay focused on the things that matter?

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Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.