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In our culture we tend to see busyness as a badge of honor—but what if it is actually a sign of defeat? There is a difference between scheduled and overscheduled, between purposeful and busy. Do you want to be scattered, stressed, and busy, or centered, purposeful, and fulfilled? Believe it or not, the choice is yours.

Sure, we all have to-do lists and nonnegotiable tasks. We all have to eat, sleep, work, shop, and do the laundry. But those chores and responsibilities are not usually what creates busyness—it’s all the other stuff we say yes to on a regular basis.

No Is Not a Dirty Word

There is a simple secret to life that many of us don’t inherently know: it’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s rather empowering to say no. Every time you say no to one thing, you’re really saying yes to something else. If you need to say yes to downtime, yes to self-care, and yes to peace—start by saying no to the things you really don’t have to or want to do.

he best situation is when you can politely say no without feeling like you have to give an excuse; but if you feel pressure or pushback, you can always say, “I’m not saying no to you—I’m saying yes to myself.”

Create a Buffer

When you feel compelled to say yes, start by saying: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” This creates a buffer that allows you time to reflect on the request, assess your schedule, and determine whether the commitment is realistic to make. It prevents you from having to think on your feet and provides distance so that you can so no without feeling overly uncomfortable.


Some things are worth saying yes to—but only you can decide which ones. We live in a world where nearly every moment of our lives is filled with something. How do you choose what to slash and what to keep? It all comes down to priorities.

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ake a list of every activity in your life that is negotiable. (Skip the nonnegotiable things like laundry and grocery shopping). Now rank each activity on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least enjoyable and 10 being the most. Your list might look like this:

Yoga = 9

Happy hour with colleagues = 4

Make dessert for my friend’s baby shower = 2

Taking my elderly neighbor to

lunch = 4

Editing a friend’s résumé = 2

Book club = 6

ithout the ranking system, you might have assumed that yoga was a self-indulgent activity that you could afford to skip—but it makes you feel great and sets the tone for the rest of your day. Making a fancy dessert for a friend’s party, on the other hand, is a thankless chore that can take the better part of an afternoon. Could you give yourself permission to push the easy button and instead pick up a ready-made dessert?

Spend Your Life Energy Wisely

A ranking system helps you see and understand your priorities. If you can look at the reason behind each activity and the level of enjoyment it does or does not bring you, you can make better choices about how to spend your time. After all, your time—or life energy—is like currency. Would you spend $100 on something you didn’t like or want? Of course not! So why spend your precious life energy on things that don’t bring you joy? Instead resolve to prioritize and spend your time and energy wisely. You may decide that you absolutely love all of the activities that are keeping you overly busy—or you may decide that you love some downtime in your life and will schedule accordingly. The choice is yours.