• On any given day, I’m juggling a full-time job, freelance deadlines, and an active social life.
  • I’m also a giver and like to make people happy, but over the years I've learned that my time is valuable and sometimes I have to say no.
  • I said no to every non-essential request in my life for a week, and this is what happened.

It’s a fact of life – we’re all busy. On any given day, I’m juggling a full-time job, freelance deadlines, plus an active dating and social life. It’s not uncommon for me to have plans seven nights a week — my schedule books up weeks in advance.

I’m also a giver, and I like making people happy, which can make saying "no" more difficult.

As someone who metes out every hour of her time, the conscious experiment of saying “no” more often intrigued me.  Over the years, I’ve learned to say no to things that trigger my anxiety, like holiday parties and events that involve large crowds. Ditto for doing what other people think I “should” do. Decisions made from a place of guilt rarely end well for anyone.

Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything.”

I started saying “no” to everything that was nonessential, didn’t excite me, or could distract me. Time is the most valuable resource I have, and I revelled in employing stricter boundaries.

Here are a few things, I said “no” to:

1. Unsolicited Facebook messages

People contact me via three different email addresses, text messages, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The only separate app is Facebook Messenger, so I removed it from my phone. There’s absolutely no reason for me to be so readily accessible via so many different platforms.

2. I only checked social media DMs twice a day

I scaled back on how often I checked my social media DMs. I also didn’t feel obligated to reply to anyone in a timely manner — or at all.

3. I didn’t reply to every SMS or dating app message

Unless an immediate reply was needed, I took my time to reply to general messages like, “How are you?” and, “What are you up to?” Such questions are thoughtful, but in no way imperative.

4. I said no to people who wanted to ‘pick my brain’

Hands down, my biggest pet peeve is when people ask to “pick my brain.” It’s flattering to be approached for advice, but it happens all the time. I have such limited free time, and the knowledge I’ve collected over the years is valuable. A cup of coffee is not commensurate payment for me to give up the goods I use to pay my bills.

5. I said 'no' to small favours

Because I’m a writer, people seem to think I am a jack of all editorial trades. They ask me to look at work bios, resumes, cover letters, press releases, website copy — you name it.

Just because I can do these things, doesn’t mean I enjoy it or I have the time to do it. There are a ton of creative projects I’d rather work on.  

During my experiment, I said no to reworking a 100-word bio and looking at a first draft of an article. Individually, none of these tasks are a huge time commitment, but they would add up to several hours of work if I said yes.

6. I didn’t reply to off-topic/unsolicited pitches

I’m constantly bombarded with pitches from publicists. Dozens and dozens. All day long. I try to be as polite as possible, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to respond to every single pitch. Plus, a lot of them are unsolicited and totally off-topic.

Instead of hitting reply on unusable pitches, I hit delete. And you know what? I felt no remorse. It’s business, after all, and time is money.

7. 'Can you make a recommendation?'

If people aren’t asking to pick my brain or for small favours, they’re asking for food and travel recommendations. Normally I’m happy to help, since I love sharing all of my fun and delicious finds. The thing is, it takes time to pull together suggestions, since I take people’s interests into account when curating lists.

This week, I said no to two requests for Seattle dining recommendations, one for Vancouver, and one for family island travel recommendations. The person who made the last ask should know that I know absolutely nothing about family travel — I actively plan my travels around avoiding families.

Again, just because I’m savvy about a subject, in this case, travel, doesn’t mean I’m an all-encompassing expert.

8. Videos, articles, and memes

I stopped clicking on unsolicited videos, articles, GIFs, and memes. I don’t have time for silly SpongeBob Squarepants memes. Period.

After a week of doling out “no’s,” I plan to use this word more freely in the future. This simple action freed up time and mental space and felt really good.

I want to give more attention to my priorities and protect my time more fiercely. It’s not you, it’s me. For real.

Receive a single WhatsApp message every morning with all our latest news: Sign up here.

See also: