For most of my clients, asks of their most precious commodity – time – continue to grow, even as their mental and physical bandwidth shrink under the ongoing pressure of a global pandemic, racial justice protests, wildfires, hurricanes, a divisive presidential election, and whatever else 2020 throws at us. (Are murder hornets still a thing?)


There are new service lines to launch, employees to train, challenging personalities to navigate and hundreds of emails to review. And, then there are civic committees to join (or lead!), family members to call, health issues to manage, children to shepherd through virtual school, meals to cook, and endless things to worry about…


For a host of reasons too numerous to cover here, many working professionals find it incredibly hard to say “NO” to “opportunities” that present themselves and can overcommit.


If this sounds like you, it could be because your “NO” muscles are anorexic while you “Yes I Can!” muscles are basically reflexive.


And, when you say yes to too much, you can become overwhelmed, frustrated, and burned out. And, it does not happen overnight. The busy waters boil slowly…


Here is my challenge to you:

The next time you are presented with a “new opportunity” or any other request of your time, ask yourself this important question:

“When I say YES to this, what am I saying NO to?”


When you are asked to lead a new project, join a new committee, or come up with a “fun” way to host your department’s holiday party remotely (a real request of a VP-level client), simply pause and ask that simple question: “When I say YES to this, what am I saying NO to?”


When you say YES, are you saying NO to shutting off your computer at 6pm? Are you saying NO to sleep, exercise, meditation, healthier eating, an unfinished hobby, time with your partner, children, friends, family or pets?


Usually we say “NO” to self-care. It is the “easiest” thing to cut.


Sometimes we have to say yes – our jobs or health or family’s wellbeing depend on it. They key point here is to simply take time to ask the question.


Asking this simple question is a powerful first step. It brings the cost of each decision to your awareness, moving you out of a reflexive YES and into a thoughtful “Let me think about it.”


If you find your NO muscles could use a bit of work, I encourage you to check out My Answer is No, If that is OK with You, a book written by a medical doctor who became alarmed when she saw the health impacts of women who took on too much. (For a quicker summary, check out this podcast that outlines the key steps.)