Stop is not a four-letter word.
Life coach Meredith Haberfeld says if you want to improve work life balance, it’s critical to stop, pause, and think before taking on new obligations.
“Learning to say no to things is a skill one needs to develop and practice,” Haberfield says, “because we are trained to be polite, and many of us don’t like to let others down or feel like we might.”
There’s no need to lose your cool when you decline to do something. “There are ways to say no with grace that take care of ourselves and the person we’re saying no to,” says the life coach.
If the consequence of saying “yes” is not high for that particular item, “we kind of justify it in our minds” even if we are already overextended, Haberfeld says.
But the costs of agreeing to everything come later. So people overextend themselves, instead of deciding beforehand whether this additional task is even worth doing. Haberfeld says people will unconsciously say yes to things like volunteering at a child’s school, or even fun things like going to a friend’s house for dinner without really thinking it over first.
Before saying “yes,” people should think, “Is it the best way to use my time? Is it in line with my priorities?”
Haberfeld suggests “stopping for 45 seconds” to pause and consider the item before committing to something. “Most of us are saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to things in life without a lot of conscious thinking.” Bringing consciousness to this process is the first step to improve work life balance.
Taking that thoughtful pause is “smart for your personal, professional, romantic, and family lives, says Haberfeld, “because everyone needs downtime for their personal needs, and to spend time with their family and friends.
“Most people are not stopping and thinking” whether they want to “allocate time in a way that makes them happy,” Haberfeld notes.
The life coach says it’s critical to learn to notice what you’re doing “to gain awareness of how many times” you say ‘yes,’ and to pay attention to “the consequences to your schedule.”
“Develop and practice saying ‘no’ with grace. When you take the time and refine your ability to say ‘no’ with grace, you will have more agency over your schedule and feel more relaxed.”
To improve your work life balance, “it’s even more important to stop and take time to determine which is the choice that will take the most care of yourself,” says Haberfeld, whether it be a personal, professional, romantic, or family commitment. These needs “are not at odds with each other.”
“Using your time in this way is what takes care of your overall needs,” Haberfeld points out. What you get in your life is “all about what you say ‘yes’ to and what you say ‘no’ to.”