How My Life Improved After 14 Days of Saying 'No'

05/26/2015 03:39 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016

I had always been a "yes" woman. You know, that woman who wants to make everyone happy, not ruffle any feathers and above all, lend a helping hand.

Perhaps you can relate.

Well, at the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to become a "no" woman... unless the things or opportunities being asked of me were a "hell yes." That means that I had to almost jump up and down with excitement in order for someone to get a "yes" from me.

There were a few events that prompted me to change my mind from being a "yes" woman to a "hell yes"... or in other words, a mostly "no" woman.

First, I realized that my time is the most precious asset I have going for me. And with that realization came the insight that I wanted to start protecting my time for things I truly loved, rather than give it away to people and things that made me feel "lukewarm."

Second, I realized that I was spending waaaayyyy more time with other people... great people like my friends and business colleagues, but not-so-much time with the most important person in my life: my husband.

Third, I wanted to ensure that I had time in my schedule to work on hobbies and crafts that I truly enjoy -- like scrapbooking, calligraphy, reading, etc. Because of all the "yeses" I had been dishing out over the years, I didn't have time in my schedule for the activities that fueled my spirit.

Now, there was just one problem with becoming a "no" woman after a lifetime of being a "yes" woman: I had to get over the feeling of letting others down and/or feeling guilty. This took courage! I actually set out to say "no" 14 days in a row to things that I didn't feel deserved my time.

I kept a log to help me stay accountable to myself.

14 Days of Saying "No"

Day 1: "No" to working on Fridays. In fact, I have declared three out of four of the Fridays each month as Fun Fridays. These are days that I go out exploring, get a massage or just lay low and do things I love to do.

Day 2: When my husband complained about not having any laundry today, I lost it. You see, he had been stepping over the pile for three days -- this is the part that made me upset. Today, I told him that not only was I not doing that pile of laundry, as I was swamped with work and deadlines, but that he was now responsible for the laundry. The best news? The laundry is now dropped off at a laundry service where it is washed, dried and folded. Bliss!

Day 3: I was asked today to be a guest on somebody's podcast show. Now, this happens often, and most times it is a "hell yes," but this particular individual hasn't produced an episode in over two years. This means there is no audience even listening anymore, and she wanted to "use me to bring her podcast back to life." Nope, that's a big fat no -- my time is more valuable than that. I politely declined and told her to be in touch once she rebranded it and released a few new episodes.

Day 4: Today, I fired a client. Now, this may sound funny to some of you, but when you work for yourself, you have to do this from time to time. It is never fun, nor easy. But this particular client was sucking the life out of me. She wasn't holding up her end of the deal in the writing coaching, and then was blaming me for lack of progress. I ain't got time nor energy for that!

Day 5: I had to say "no" to the fourth chocolate chip peanut butter cookie I wanted to stuff in my mouth today!

Day 6: An email arrived in my inbox today. Someone wanted me to free up space on my calendar to speak with her. The problem? She had stood me up two times prior. Saying no this time meant that I could protect my time in the future.

Day 7: I resigned today from a dysfunctional board I was sitting on. When the volunteer commitments are more drama than fun, it's time for a change.

Day 8: I had to remind a client today that I don't work on Friday, Saturday or Sunday on client work. This infuriated her -- namely because she had waited until the last minute to submit work for my review. I politely reminded her of my standards and processes.

Day 9: I'm taking a break from social media today. I'm on overload mode.

Day 10: A new client was upset because I didn't take checks via mail for payment. I politely offered three alternative ways to pay me, all online. I thought for sure I had lost that sale, but taking checks is risky, and not how I operate! In the end, she figured out PayPal and made the payment!

Day 11: Today someone tried to "bargain-down" my copywriting prices. I told her that the prices on the site were non-negotiable. I have a business to run here! I lost that sale, but two more came in with people willing to pay the fair price.

Day 12: As a college professor, sometimes I have to dish out tough love. Tonight was one of those nights. I told my students that if they arrived to class late, they would be penalized. Well, tonight I had to stick to my words. When one student asked if I would reconsider, I politely said "no" and went on about class. (He didn't have a valid excuse, I checked.)

Day 13: My friend called today and asked if I wanted to go grab a drink at the beer garden. I wasn't in a position to get up and go at the moment, and she was already there. I said "no" and felt strong for not feeling guilty about it!

Day 14: I submitted a talk for an education conference in Chicago. I got the word that it had been approved, but the organizers could only fit me in during lunch time. This meant that people would be walking in and out, because lunch wasn't provided, and they would be not fully engaged with the topic. I gave a response of "no" to the invitation, knowing that those three days spent in Brooklyn with my husband and cat, rather than in Chicago, would be more rewarding.

After 14 days of saying "no," I learned some key things about myself and others:

  • Most people are perfectly fine with the "no." I was the one who had to get over the feelings of guilt and letting others down.
  • Saying "no" allowed me more time for myself, my husband and spontaneous things that popped up along the way!
  • I became a happier person because I wasn't stressed out and "booked to the max". I also wasn't trying to make everyone else happy, which in turn, made me a happier individual.
  • I made more money in my business by saying "no" to clients who weren't a good fit, didn't see my value or wouldn't follow my processes. This was a huge breakthrough for me!
  • Every time I said "no," it got easier the next time. I wish I would have started this initiative a long time ago.
If you are feeling stressed, overcommitted and worn down, I am going to encourage you to take a look at your schedule and, more importantly, how often you are saying "yes" to things out of obligation, guilt or fear. Life is short, our time is precious and I believe we should spend every moment doing things that light us up with passion, creativity and love. Won't you join me on the journey from "no" to "hell yes"?