POV: You’ve got a to-do list longer than a CVS receipt and a Google Calendar more packed than a T. Swift concert – and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of commitments in your life.
If you can relate, I understand. And I’m here to shed some light on how to strategically plan your commitments, so you can stay sane, grounded and create a sustainable life and business.
So, if you struggle with saying no or can’t seem to get a handle on your schedule, grab your bullet journal or iPad and get ready to take notes, gorgeous.
1) Define Your Priorities
It sounds obvious, but knowing what to say yes to – and what not to – starts with knowing your priorities. So, tell me: When was the last time you paused to define yours, in writing? If it’s been a while, consider this your invitation to revisit – and re-dedicate yourself to – them.
So, what are your top priorities? Think about things like both short-term and long-term goals in business and life and what projects you’d love to take on that align with your ultimate vision. What do you want to accomplish this year, in three years and in 10 years? Knowing your priorities is like having a compass to guide you through the vast wilderness of opportunities available to online biz owners.
When you’re super cut & dry about your priorities, you’ll have a ‘roadmap’ to refer back to when opportunities and other potential commitments come your way.
For example, if you’re a hand-made jewelry designer aiming for time and financial freedom, you might know in your heart you want to create an online course teaching others the art of handmade jewelry. If you know this is your goal – and crafting your course is priority #1 this year – it won’t feel so hard to say no to the tempting-but-not-quite-aligned invitation to participate in a local craft fair. Saying no to the fair frees up time to focus on what you really want: creating your online course.
2) Evaluate the Impact on Yourself and Your Business
One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make–especially in their first few years of business–is giving a knee-jerk yes to any opportunity that crops up. I get it – when you’re a brand-new baby biz owner, you might feel like every opportunity could be your last. And while it can be great to say ‘yes’ to lots of different opportunities at the beginning to get visible and figure out what you like & dislike, here’s my take: When an opportunity comes a-knocking (or sliding into your DMs), you should always take time to think about it, versus saying yes on the spot – especially if it’s not an obvious priority or goal.
Why? Mainly because taking a pause allows you to really weigh the potential impacts of a commitment–both positive and negative.
So, next time you’re asked for a favor – or given an opportunity – I want you to ask yourself what the potential impact of this commitment is on you as a business owner and human. Will it get you closer to one of your goals, or will it just drain your time, energy or resources?
You’ll also want to think about the impact on your actual business, too. If you’re a motivational speaker, you might turn down a speaking gig because it requires extensive travel – and will only expose you to a 20-50 new people. Instead, you might choose to say yes to a virtual event that will get your face & message in front of a broader audience and thousands of potentially highly aligned clients & customers.
On the flip side, you might say yes to the out-of-town speaking gig because you admire the host and truly want to connect with them.
Whatever makes the most sense for your business – and life – goals, is what matters. Even the most glittering opportunities have a potential downside, so it’s important (and okay) to be selective and only choose opportunities that move you closer to your vision for your biz & life.
3) Learn to Say No Gracefully
Saying “no” doesn’t have to be a wildly uncomfortable or awkward ordeal. In fact, it’s a skill you’ll need to master as an entrepreneur, in order to save your sanity and preserve your relationships (both professional and personal).
The good news is there are loads of graceful ways to skip an opportunity, without burning a bridge or even closing the door completely.
A quick tip: Every time you need to or decide to decline an offer, first express your gratitude for the invitation and then kindly explain why you can’t commit at this moment. While ‘no’ is a complete sentence and you don’t actually need an explanation, letting a potential collaborator or client know why can help ease the disappointment on their end, earn their respect–and leave the door open for future collaboration.
Remember: Each “no” you deliver is a step towards preserving your focus on what truly matters.
4) Create Clear Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries is a cornerstone of entrepreneurial success. It’s so easy to let our work lives blend into our home lives–and much-needed self-care and/or family time.
Instead of letting your days (and other people’s priorities) rule you, establish firm-yet-flexible boundaries so you can rule your days. At minimum, define (and stick to) your work hours, limit your number of commitments per week to match your energy levels (which may vary by week), and prioritize self-care. Those bubble baths and home-cooked healthy meals matter – they’re your fuel for legacy, friend.
Setting clear boundaries is truly the secret to sustainable success. It’s the only way to ensure you get done what needs to get done, and what you want to get done, as well.
5) Reevaluate Regularly
Priorities and circumstances can change over time, and that’s perfectly normal. That said, it’s crucial to regularly review your commitments and adjust, as needed. If something clutters your calendar and no longer serves you or your goals, don’t hesitate to let it go.
If you’re a marketing coach & you’ve built your business around group programs, but find that your digital products are gaining more traction – or are simply more enjoyable to promote – don’t be afraid to shift your focus. Or, if you’re a freelance copywriter, don’t forget you have every right to periodically assess the type of clients you serve and the kind of work you take on.
Following the above simple (but not always easy) tips can help talented entrepreneurs like you avoid overwhelm and burn out and also pave the way for you to experience real success, on your own terms. Here’s to making choices that align with your dreams and aspirations – and embarking on a journey filled with meaningful (and only meaningful) commitments.