Reader Q’s: How Can I Own My Time & Say “No”?

how to say no


Mia says: “My blogging challenge has been time: owning my time, putting myself first and not giving my time away. I need to say “no” much more often than I do.”

“Owning my time” really struck me. In my last post, I talked about valuing your time and your work.¬†

How can you own your time?

This is a difficult question I wrestle with daily. Let’s just say the following isn’t really “hypothetical.”

So – have you made what could be considered strange, even selfish actions?

You’ve said “No.” A lot.

Your “other obligations” include Netflix binging or reading. Or you’ve created elaborate excuses to say “No.”

That’s “owning time,” but with a heavy dose of insincerity and a splash of guilt. Just a way to avoid confrontation because of the ridiculous notion everyone around you must be happy at all times.

Or you’ve said “No” so much, the lack of human interaction makes social situations terribly awkward. Like a cave woman attempting to reenter human society.

Please stop doing this.

Eventually, you’ll have to be honest and explain yourself. It’s far easier to simply be upfront.

If you’ve said “Yes” to someone and begrudgingly comply, you’ll regret it. If you say “No” and then materialize a complicated “other obligation,” you’ll regret it.

Here’s how to balance saying Yes” versus “No.”

Evaluate your personal or professional return on investment.

A good friend hangs out, even if the activity is less than appealing. A good freelancer accepts projects with a smidge of risk or in an uninteresting or unfamiliar area.

Just don’t relent all the time. Don’t force yourself to attend a snoozeworthy outing or networking event because a colleague is going. If a client wants you to consider a new project you don’t want to do, come up with an alternative or give a referral.

Make sure the benefits are overwhelmingly skewed in your favor. Saying “yes” to yourself will feel foreign, maybe even uncomfortable.

Being selectively “selfish” is mandatory. Just as important as contracts, good accounting or any other part of your business.

Just spill it already.

If you don’t want to do something, just say so.

Face it: you’ll disappoint people when you say “No.” If you want them to be a part of your life, insist this not hurt the relationship. If they get angry, step back and evaluate the value of that relationship.

Maybe that inflexible client needs to be dropped. Perhaps you distance yourself from stubborn people or people who bring out the worst in you.

Check out my girl Ash Ambirge’s post on how she received two “gorgeous no’s”.

Here are my previous reader questions and answers:

Staying Creative When Life Sucks

How I Found My First Client

If you struggle with saying no or have figured out ways to master it, let me know in the comments.

Have a question you want answered? Email me at

2 thoughts on “Reader Q’s: How Can I Own My Time & Say “No”?

  1. Good points all around, especially about people being disappointed. I’ll add too that…some people will get downright angry and try to coerce you anyway. Not all the time (hopefully), but sometimes. That’s something people need to be willing to deal with, too.

    It’s all about boundaries. People who respect your boundaries are worth keeping. People who won’t? Well, those may need to be rethought.

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