How I learned to 'say no' easily

One of the areas I struggled for quite some time is my inability to say no to many things. I felt trapped, lacking confidence in doing so.

With a growing blog comes a growing interest to experience new things - especially when they're presented to me for free, or with a fee. I got excited on opportunities that I never thought would come my way. In blogging, there's always an invitation to attend events or try amazing experiences - food, hotel, gadgets, activities, etc. There's a lot of exposure; a lot of perks. Hence it became a habit to say yes to these invites - even to those outside my domain.

I thought I was rewarding myself every time I'm present everywhere - including events after office hours and on weekends. I was having fun, I was getting inspired, I meet a lot of people. I thought it's okay because I bring along my wife and my daughter anyway. I mean, I'm not taking away my time with them, right?

Soon, my crazy schedule took a toll on me - particularly on health. For someone who has a full time job, a growing family and a startup business, a full calendar is not really fun all the time. My sleeping hours were reduced, and weekends were compromised. With an unconditioned mind, not all my commitments were fulfilled accordingly.

That was about 4 years ago.

One day, I just decided to say no, when it's really a NO - whatever it takes. This is not my kind of lifestyle. I don't want to completely slide in giving priority to my family over work and community. Work and community will always have a special place in my life. I value the relationships with everyone there. It's just a matter of priority (and frequency).

The turning point

I got an invitation to attend a Friday activity - that means I won't be spending most of the day with the family. I told my then 4-year old daughter about it. My very eloquent daughter said, "But dad it's weekend..." and she added, "Why do you have to go out on a weekend daddy? It's our bonding time remember?"

That struck me hard. I called the person who invited me to say I'm not attending the event. She replied, "Too bad we won't have you againYou've been declining my invitations all the time. What are friends for?"

If you're on my situation, whose sentiment will you take side? Which guilt can you afford to ignore? I ignored the guilt towards my friend to honor what my daughter feels.

Since then, saying no became easier.

There's no such thing as work-life balance. There's not even a proper time management. When you follow your priority, this decision will come handy. Else, the lack of priority will take its toll on things that really matter.

Sometimes we want to do too much. We want to be involved so much with really good intentions to change the world. But Mother Teresa put it in the best perspective when she said, "If you wanna change the world, go home and love your family."

At the workplace

In my early years in Dubai, it was too hard for me to say no when I'll be asked to do extra (non-urgent) work beyond office hours. I developed a premature mindset thinking that "saying no" gives an unpleasant impression about me.

Many Filipinos are on the same frame. We are not known to turn down requests by our superiors at work. We always say yes even if it's half-meant. We are hesitant to speak up for fear of being tagged as insubordinate, or worse, for fear of losing job.

That attitude is what causes burnout.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about exceeding expectations but I do it by working efficiently during office hours. For me, working longer doesn't always mean excellence. It's the quality not the quantity.

Claim your personal time. Go home to your family. If you're single, discover new things; do things you love; meet people. Put your personal time on something that would add value to your life.

Number your days

In a day, 9-10 hours are spent at work, 1 hour grooming, 2 hours on the road, 7 hours sleep. That leaves us with just 3 - 4 hours spare.

In one year, there are only 52 weekends - that's 104 days if you have 2 days off. 104 out of 365. One hundred four days to spend with the family. Every time you go out on weekends away from home, the number slips further down.

Combining work, community and family seems to be a good idea but it doesn't work all the time. I cannot bring my kids and just make them sit down beside me while I'm doing adult works, just to say I'm not neglecting my time with them. If you can dedicate exclusive attention to work, how much more to your family?

Time is a limited commodity. Once spent, it's gone. If we don't give the time they need, somebody or something else will fulfill that.

Many expats are struggling to cope living away from their loved ones. They're longing to be together to share precious moments. If you live with your family here abroad, LIVE WITH THEM.

If you have kids in their formative years, give them all the time. Children are the real work.

Set your priorities right. The family is always higher than work and any, ANY "extra activities."

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