You. Are. Busy.
Between your job, your family, your friends, your social life, your workout schedule and just general life-ing, sometimes the list of responsibilities and commitments is just too much. As we roll into the holidays, the time you have to get things done during the day just gets shorter (literally — the sun goes down at, like, 4 p.m. now) and your to-do list just gets longer. Throw in a few holiday parties, rehearsals for the little ones, your partner’s work dinner and your long list of gifts and appetizers you have to get so you can show up to all of it with something in your hands, and you might consider just crawling in a hole for the winter and hibernating until the season of joy is over.
But you don’t just feel busy, you actually are busy. A 2018 study showed that women around the world are given 10% more work than their male counterparts (and are likely getting paid less for it, but we’ll save that for another day). Plus, you’re likely carrying the lion’s share of the load of work at home too — women are generally estimated to carry roughly 60-80% of household responsibilities, and even more so if there are little ones to care for as well.
So how do you even deal with it all? We propose one of two methods: 1. Hibernate until at least March. And, if that’s not a real possibility because you are not, in fact, a bear, then we suggest option 2. Learn to say "no."
Saying "no" is tough for all of us. We feel like we’re letting others down. Most of us are born with some strange spidey-sense of responsibility that makes us feel like we have to say "yes" to anything people ask or volunteer when no one even requested volunteers, and do it all with a smile on our faces.
And while we love you for it, this spidey-sense does not make you a superhero. It makes you the woman who breaks down one day in line at Target, or the woman laying on the horn and screaming in traffic while simultaneously applying mascara and writing holiday cards. Here are a few tips on how to not be that girl by learning to say "no."
Prioritize Your Schedule.
And leave a little room for the daily fires that will pop up. Prioritizing your schedule is step one to getting your life back. What goes on the list of priorities when it all seems like a priority? Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help you decide. If it’s important, do it now or find time to do it soon. If it’s not important, find a way to delegate (take five minutes to teach someone else how to do it and think of it as a good way to coach and give opportunity) or figure out how to get rid of it entirely.
Actually Say "No."
We know. It’s hard. So try it with something small first. Say "no" to the extra project or the fourth holiday happy hour. Say "no" to the meeting where your presence is not completely vital. Say "no" to those things that are not YOUR priority, otherwise you’re letting someone else set your priorities and schedule for you. Reminder: You are in control of your time, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get more of it. You’re going to have to say "no" to something. If it's just not in your vocabulary, work these phrases into your rotation:
- "Thank you so much for the invite, but I’m slammed right now and am going to have to say 'no.'"
- "Thanks for thinking of me! I’d love to, but I just can’t fit it in with all of my priorities right now."
- "I so appreciate you asking for my help! But I’m going to have to say 'no.' We’re prioritizing some quiet family time this weekend and we all made a commitment to keep our schedules clear."
Ask for Help and Simplify Your Tasks.
Repeat after me: You are not alone and you don’t have to be a perfect superhero. There are armies of others out there willing to help if you just ask. At work, consider delegating parts of your to-do list to someone else. If it’s not in your Important and urgent box, give someone else a chance to work on a task that will help them grow. At home, partner up with other superheroes. Are your kids at practice or rehearsal? See if you can carpool those kiddos and cut your pick-ups in half. Need to bring an appetizer to a party? Homemade treats are nice, but everyone loves a good bottle of wine just as much.
Take Time for You.
Even superheroes need time to recharge. Make sure to take care of you in this busy season. Make sure there is at least one thing each week that you are doing for yourself — gym time, quiet time, a run, getting a pedicure or watching a movie. You may feel guilty doing it the first time, but we promise, the energy and recharge you feel from taking a few moments for yourself will make you all that much better for the rest of the week!
Kara Albert is an independent consultant who is passionate about helping people succeed and who has spent more than 15 years helping people and organizations be their very best. She currently resides in Chicago and is an avid foodie and traveler.