How to Say No! – Guest Blog
Jen Schmidt is a very talented Lake Tahoe photographer who’s determined to succeed in life. She has also realized that having your own business can be very stressful at times. Over a cup of coffee with Jen, we talked about the hardest thing to do – How to Say No. Jen offered to write this post (Thank you Jen!) and give you, our valuable readers her advice on How to Say No and keep your head above water. Did I mention she’s only 25? To get in touch with Jen about her amazing photography, please, contact her directly.
At this moment in my life I am a full-time photographer with a budding business, I associate- and second-shoot weddings for two different studios, and I nanny part-time. I write three or four pieces for Tahoe Quarterly every issue, attend a networking group once a week and try to get out of the house with friends at least once a month to maintain some ghostly semblance of a social life. I actively participate in Relay For Life, Star Follies and Boy Scouts. I never say no when someone asks me to donate a photo session to a silent auction for a charitable cause. I’d like to lose 25 pounds. And I’m a 25-year old kid in a long-distance relationship. I barely have enough time to take care of myself, let alone sleep on a regular basis. And anytime I’m awake, unless I’ve paid for a vacation and forced myself to leave the laptop and camera behind, I’m working.
It’s funny that one of the first words we learn how to say becomes so difficult for us later in life. It’s easy to say yes to one thing or another – but it’s a slippery slope. Before you know it you feel like poor Atlas and slowly, but surely, your muscles begin to weaken…
Why do we over-commit? Because we honestly want to help, or we don’t want to be rude. Maybe we fear we’ll lose a good opportunity or hurt someone’s feelings. And saying yes to every offer makes it feel like you can take on the world, until you realize you can’t. Because I am clearly no expert on how not to over-commit, I’ve done a little research with some help from my friend, the Internet, and compiled it here for you in a handy list.
1. Figure out your priorities. Don’t focus solely on professional goals if you want to spend time with your family. If you want to make your photography startup a success, as much as it pains me to say it, you can’t spend time running around with little kids or freelancing for magazines. Of course, easier said than done.
2. Set goals that keep those priorities in mind. When you don’t have a concrete vision of what you want to accomplish with your family, career, health, social life, finances…you have no point of reference when your boss asks you to take on more travel or a project that requires an extra 10 hours a week. This’ll help you spot conflicts before they’re right on top of you.
3. Sleep on it. When someone asks you for your time and you’re not sure, tell them you’ll get back to them. Which is not to say, be flaky. Just take a minute away from the situation to weigh the value of the offer and how much time you actually have. Does it help you with your goals?
4. Finish what you started. Always honor your commitments, but once they’re done you’re free to go.
5. That said – buy yourself some time in the short-term by making a list of your commitments and seeing what can be rescheduled, delegated or even cancelled. Combat calendar claustrophobia – once you have some room to breathe you can make your plan.
6. Schedule time for yourself and stick to it. Call it trite but you know it’s true. The road to hell is paved with what? Make it a ritual – walk the dog every day at 5:00 or take lunch away from your desk – and it’ll keep you sane.
7. Don’t waste your time trying to please everyone. You’ll be tearing your hair out and in the process you’ll be doing a disservice to all the people and priorities that matter most. Some people are always miserable; refuse to let them take you down too.
8. If a good opportunity falls in your lap and you don’t have the time for it, refer it to a reliable colleague or friend. With any luck they’ll be gracious and return the favor when they’re over-committed.
9. Keep, or regain, some perspective. When you’re feeling pressed, take a deep breath and back up a few feet. Pointillists paint myriad small dots to form an image, but unless you’re standing at a distance you won’t know what it is. Remember the big picture and don’t let those small dots get in your head. If that doesn’t help, look up how much space you take up on the geological timeline.
10. Do something fun. Seriously, maybe if you accidentally build in a little extra margin you can have some time for yourself. Remember fun?
Long story short? If something brings you joy or your business money, keep it. If it only stresses you out and there’s no room for improvement, it’s time to cut your losses. Two-year-olds the world over can say it, so it’s time for some verbal rehabilitation. Relish the small victory that is that teeny, tiny two-letter word.
Your turn? What keeps you up at night? How do you Say No? Would you like to see more guest posts?