Six strategies for saying no

By Susie Hawkins

I didn’t have time to write this blog.

In fact, no matter how often I set aside time to work on it, something urgent always prevented me from doing so. Why? I had overcommitted myself with too many places to be and too many tasks to accomplish. I have been living in “crunch time”— barely meeting deadlines, deleting things off my list, and rushing toward the next.

Much to my frustration, my list of things to do seemed to grow, instead of shrink.

I know I’m not alone, and that most of of us have lived this scenario too many times. While we often agree to take on assignments, there are times when responsibilities that fall to us are not the ones we chose. Family emergencies, physical illness, ministry demands, and other concerns rarely happen at convenient times. Sometimes these responsibilities end up taking huge chunks of time — much more than we anticipated.

Yes, everyone knows it’s wise to leave some degree of margin in our schedules for these inevitable interruptions, but sometimes that isn’t enough. I’ve learned along the way that, despite our best intentions and wise planning, a season like this will come along. It doesn’t last forever, but when you are in it, you feel like it will. As I reflect on these past months, I am determined to sharpen saying, “No,” for future use.

Here are six ways to do so:

1. When scheduling a commitment, don’t look only at the day. Look at your week, your month, and the time period. I’ve learned that May and October throw more on my calendar than any other months of the year — even December. I need to schedule fewer events those weeks to allow some space for the busyness of a month or season.

2. Don’t fall for the line, “I’ve prayed about this and believe you are the person God wants for this job.” If God wants you take on this commitment, He will tell you.

3. Determine what your priorities are and what you are genuinely interested in. If this opportunity doesn’t fit into either category, feel free to say, “No.”

4. Don’t hesitate to say, “Let me think and pray about this.” Buy yourself some time to consider the opportunity, pray about it, and then decide.

5. Memorize the “graceful ‘No.'” It goes something like this:”I can’t commit to something I know I can’t do well.”

6. Do some “calendar triage.” Michael Hyatt recommends that when we are knee deep in the crazy season, and its too late to cancel or withdraw major commitments, perhaps we can still re-evaluate some of them. See if there are any that could be postponed, delegated, or rescheduled.

Whatever we do and however we manage our responsibilities, we lean into the grace of God.

A good friend once gave me very wise counsel: “Gratitude is the key that unlocks the door of an anxious heart.” Especially in the most stressful times, it’s good to stop and thank God for His mercies and goodness. In time, He will enable you to get it all done.

You might even have time to write a blog.

Published April 8, 2018

Susie Hawkins

Susie lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband OS Hawkins. She is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another: Honest Conversations on Connections in Ministry. She has 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.