Overwhelmed? Say Yes (To These Four Things) Anyway

Does the phrase “in your spare time” elicit a hearty, ironic laugh from you? You’re juggling a career and family. In addition to your partner and children, you’re helping an aging relative whose decline in health is making them more dependent on you and others. You’re volunteering – the PTO, Scouts, your house of worship, the local food pantry, or any other nonprofit on your radar – and it’s important to you to keep that commitment. There’s that webinar you forgot you signed up for last week and the certificate program you keep thinking about completing if only you had the time to fit classes into your schedule. The thought of saying “yes” to one more thing feels, well, laughable. And yet, saying “Yes!” may be exactly what you need. 

Yes to No

First, let’s get the obvious scenario out of the way. Some of us struggle with saying “no.” We feel obligated to oblige. We may be overwhelmed and tapped out. We may be burning the proverbial midnight oil to get it all done, but we just can’t bring ourselves to say no to a particular request. The truth is, however, that we simply can’t do it all, at least not all at once. Sometimes we need to say “yes” to turning down requests. (Need a hand in determining when to say “no?” Start with this article: “Know When No is Necessary.”)

Yes to You

If you’ve flown on a commercial airline, you’re already familiar with this concept. As your plane taxis on the runway preparing for take-off, passengers are given a quick safety presentation. “Here are the exits, your seat can be used as a flotation device…” You know the drill. When the rundown gets to the part about oxygen masks potentially dropping from the overhead, you’re instructed to place your mask first and then help others in your party who need assistance. Read that again. The concept is simple, you can’t help others if you’re being adversely impacted by a lack of oxygen. You need to first ensure you’re getting the resources you need in order to be clear enough and strong enough to help others. That’s a good rule for life. 

When you’re stretched thin and pressing into the edges of what you can tolerate, you are not nearly as helpful as you think. Say “yes” to self-care. If you want to tend to those that depend on you, excel at your job, and whatever else is on your to-do list, you need to be healthy. Don’t skip a fitness class, skip meals (or settle for junk food as a sub), or any of the other shortcuts regarding our own care that we tend to default to. Make space to tend to your physical and mental health needs in order to handle the rest of what’s on your plate.  

Yes to Priorities 

Whether we’re talking about business or personal tasks, there are some things on our plate that are more important than others. In addition, those priorities can change depending on circumstances and resources. Regardless, when push comes to shove and you’ve got to make some choices over what is going to get your attention, begin with your priorities. 

Maybe that project that doesn’t touch your primary target market can wait until you’ve got more bandwidth to explore new markets. That lunch invitation from your vendor may need to be politely declined in order to give you space to spend time at your daughter’s orchestra concert. The taekwondo class that benefits your health and lowers your stress levels may need to make it on your calendar in place of cleaning your basement. Or not. Maybe you’ve prioritized new markets and partnerships and organization. There is no right or wrong. It’s about you and your priorities. Identify them and say yes to them, even if it means saying no to something else. 

Yes to Experiments

Sometimes our hesitancy to take on a new thing isn’t about our bandwidth to tackle something else. Sometimes it’s about trepidation to try something bold and different. “What if it fails? What if I invest time and resources into this and it doesn’t work?” Sound familiar? CS Lewis once said, “You never know what you can do until you try, and very few try unless they have to.” Be one of the few. Be willing to falter because there is something to gain even from those experiments that fall flat.