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Women Leaders, Stop Saying “Yes”—Here’s How | 3 Tactics You Can Use Now to Avoid Burnout

March 3, 2021 Molly Fletcher

Have you ever said “yes” and found yourself on a conference call, in a meeting or at a dinner party, thinking: “What the heck am I doing here?”

It happens to all of us. You agree to something and then you regret the time and energy you spent on it because of one word—“yes.”

In a world dramatically changed by COVID-19, our ability to set boundaries, maintain healthy schedules, and carve out time for ourselves is more important than ever.

According to LeanIn, senior-level women are significantly more likely than men at the same level to feel pressure to work more and feel as though they have to be “always on.” These women are 1.5 times more likely to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to COVID-19—and they cite burnout as the main reason.

There is much about this unprecedented public health crisis and our daily lives that we can’t control. Women leaders are dealing with more and more each week—childcare and home schooling, complex elder care, shifting priorities and long hours at work, and virtual meetings all combine to create a volatile working environment that affects our productivity and our happiness.

Here’s the deal: When you say “yes” to everything, you can’t get that time and energy back. It’s time to start getting intentional about what you can control in your life—by focusing on what you say “yes” and “no” to. I write about this in my latest book The Energy Clock: 3 Simple Steps to Create a Life Full of ENERGY—and Live Your Best Every Day.

My challenge to you: Stop saying “yes” when you really want to say “no.” Your time and energy are valuable. Saying “yes” guarantees you are giving your time and energy away.

The good news? It can be easily avoided by replacing that three-letter word with this two-letter one: No.

Why that’s important? When we say “yes” without any intention, we are also, by default, saying “no” to the people and priorities in our life that matter more. That’s how I often reframe the narrative when I’m tempted to just say “yes” because it feels easier in the moment.

But I get it! It’s hard to say “no.” Here are a few helpful tips to help you take control of your day—and your life:

1. Know how much time you actually have available. My friend Tiffany Dufu wrote a book called Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less. I had her as a guest on my podcast, and she shared this helpful time management exercise:

  • Write down everything you expect to complete in an ideal day (every single thing!).
  • Write down how long you expect it will take you to complete each item.
  • Sum it up at the bottom. What she finds (and you probably will too!) is that we vastly overcommit ourselves. We say “yes” to things that we can’t possibly fit into our schedules.

2. Reframe the narrative. Ask yourself this question: When I say “yes” to this, am I saying “no” to something that matters more? 

3. Be gentle, yet firm. Get comfortable saying no. If you know you don’t want to do something, don’t say you will think about it. Don’t provide a lengthy explanation to rationalize your decision. Just keep it short and sweet.  

Your Game Changer Takeaway

Remember, the word “yes” is valuable. It’s your time, your energy and your attention you are giving away. Start treating it that way!

Molly Fletcher is the author of The Energy Clock: 3 Simple Steps to Create a Life Full of ENERGY—and Live Your Best Every Day. She returns to the Women in Leadership Institute™ this November 3–9, 2021. Register now to join Molly in person in Orlando, Florida, or virtually.

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Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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