There’s an underlying current running through life that ‘YES’ is the magic word. It opens up doors, allows us to turn our hand to new experiences and adventures, and pleases people. Which, on one hand, is great, but it can often leave you feeling burnt out, overstretched and dreading the hundreds of social plans you've committed to in advance. And let's not forget what happened to the guy in Super Size Me when he continued to upgrade his gigantic burger - saying yes isn't always the right thing to do.
This is especially true when it comes to accepting invites that slot into our social life. The invites that come in the shape of, ‘The hen party is going to be NUTS. There’s 30 people going, it’s going to cost you £400 and it doesn’t include accommodation, but she says she’d love to catch up with you after all these years!’ Or the ones that blindside you on a Tuesday, along the lines of 'Shall we all go away for the weekend to celebrate Sally's 30th?' Two years ago I would've accepted gracefully and said yes - the idea of letting someone down, even if I hadn’t seen them in years, would have been too much to ignore.
I would've lapped up the invites, spent money I didn’t have and took time off when I was bogged down with work, to ultimately feel frazzled and burnt out. My calendar left no time for rest (I felt queasy when I looked at it), my budget was suffering and my tank of social juice was running low. I felt quiet when I was amongst friends when usually I’m the class clown, I was tired and over-stretched and I knew that it was time to start saying no.
The turning point for me was when I did an eight hour round trip to a hen party for a bride I hadn’t seen properly in years. I only knew two other people there, and I wasn’t invited to the actual wedding day. Hungover and with pockets full of penis sweets, when I got home a switch had flipped. I was adamant that that wasn’t going to happen again. People pleasing Anna had left the building and it was time to put myself first when it came to my social life.
Yep, I was going to be selfish. It’s not about being a villainous decliner of invites, but more about moulding them into situations where both parties are happy with the outcome, or in cases where that’s not always possible – putting yourself as the priority. If there was something that I really didn’t want to go to, or would leave me without enough time to get high-priority tasks completed that week, or would be too much of a push for my budget - I said no. With more time in my schedule to do things that I actually really wanted to do - whether that was a pizza night with friends, or a pizza night home alone - my social juice tank restored. I was less cranky and happier, revelling in these new found pockets of time to add in hobbies and self-care, and socialising with friends and family more. The balance in my schedule between time out and time in felt right for once.
Fancy finding some harmony in your calendar between the two? Here’s how you do it.
1.Can’t work out what you should be declining? Try the ‘Would you go right NOW?’ method
If you’re finding it hard to work out what to yes to and what to say no to, ask yourself what you'd up and leave to attend right this second. Would you ditch what you're doing right now to go? While it might feel like a bit of a ridiculous method when you're about to get into bed and have to consider going to your best friend's wedding immediately, it's a good tactic for gauging genuine interest.
2. Try a ‘free night’ quota to find balance in your schedule
Struggling to find harmony between going out and staying in? Try giving yourself a ‘free night’ quota to fill each week. For you, that might be two nights a week that you vow to keep free of plans and commitments. Work with the figure until you find one that doesn’t make you feel like a hermit, but still gives you enough time to cook yourself a nice meal and watch a Netflix documentary on the sofa.
3. Give short-term planning a go
We can often be chronic over planners, scheduling in catch-ups months in advance. To combat this, experiment with making plans for just two weeks in advance only. This should help to lift the weight of feeling like your life is planned for months at a time, and also leave you with time for spontaneous plans.
4. Learn to say no when you’re put on the spot
When asked about future plans face-to-face, the easiest option is to nod and agree to social events that you might not even fancy. Try to get into the habit to avoid confirming anything at the time, instead responding "I’ll have to check my diary - it’s not currently up to date". With this, you can later agree to plans that you do want to do, and give yourself an excuse for plans you don't want to commit to.
5. Just be honest
While we all hate letting people down, sometimes when you don't want to commit to a plan, you just need to be honest. It might help your friend understand better if you explain your reasons for declining and maybe you can manoeuvre the occasion into something that suits you both. It's so important to recognise when you need 'me' time, and making room for it in your schedule is as key as social plans.
Fine tuning your yes/no switch to be a fully sharpened tool isn't something that will happen over night. By putting these five tips into place, you're hopefully on your way to finding a balanced harmony between your life, work and home schedules, which not only allows you more down time, but also space in your schedule for the stuff you love. No flakes to find here.