Welcome back to our periodic installment of Boundary Boss, where we discuss setting smart boundaries to improve how we live. Every post is inspired by you – women I meet or who email me or conversations with friends.
I sat down around a kitchen table with a few friends while the kids played in the background.
One woman was frazzled. I get frazzled. I live frazzled if I’m not careful.
She rattled off a list of the things she had going on: throwing a neighborhood party, hosting a breakfast for a team, running to a wedding, organizing a Halloween event, helping a friend, shuttling to kids parties and activities, and tackling her growing list of work requirements.
She looked completely overwhelmed. I knew it immediately because I’ve seen that same face looking back at me from the mirror before.
I really love everything I’m doing. But there’s so much. And I don’t know how to say no when people need me and it does sound fun when I’m asked. It’s just…
And she trailed off, recognizing we all know the end to that sentence: It’s Too Much.
She was juggling all the things. She had no time to sit still. I don’t even know if she remembered how.
When I was trying to figure out how to work and volunteer and parent and wife, I heard wise advice: We’re all juggling balls. Some are glass. Some are rubber. You will drop balls. You have to know which ones are glass and which ones are rubber and decide which ones can drop.
Some things we can afford to drop. Some we cannot.
Consider my list of glass balls I can’t drop: my relationship with God and my husband and kids, my work deliverables, my health, and my friends.
What are yours?
Everything else, as important as it feels at the time, can drop.
We returned to our conversation. I empathized and engaged: Every yes you offer is a no to something or someone else. If you say yes to that party, who are you taking away from? Your family? Work? Peace of mind?
Here’s the truth: Offers, invitations, recognitions, promotions, travel, opportunities, rarely look bad when extended. It’s in the execution we lose.
What should you/me/she do?
- When first asked to do something, never respond immediately. That’s when I make the worst decisions because I don’t understand the impact of my yes or no yet. Q: Can you help with the bake sale? A: I’m not sure, let me check my calendar. Q: Can you join our board this year? A: Thank you for the consideration. Let me talk to my family.
- Make a list and a calendar. Write down everything as it would fall, not just in the day or week, but over the entire course of the month. Do not just write down the commitment. Write down the work you’ll have to do for the commitment. If you join a board, it’s more than a two hour meeting once a month. It’s the hours of volunteer activity leading up in preparation. If you agree to be room mom, it’s more than sending an email once a week. Write those hours in and when you will do them. Who is losing? Do you sacrifice bedtime stories with the kids? Do you get 5 hours instead of 7 hours of sleep?
- Say no more than you say yes. Ugh. I know this is a hard one. Make yourself write down what you are saying yes too. Then make yourself say no too. When you know in advance you’re going to have to say no and not JUST yes, then you will weigh your yeses more carefully.
We love you workers. I am a worker. The old saying goes, if you want something done, then give it to a busy person.
But give yourself a break. We need you around a long time to do all those good works. Don’t burn out. Give yourself some grace to drop those rubber balls so you can keep those glass balls safe.