Cover a friend's shift at work? Single-handedly organize a last-minute fundraiser? Babysit your cousin's three kids on the night before a major exam? Yes, why not? We've all been there. Request after request comes flying in from all areas of our lives and before we know it, we've said yes to them all. One look at our planners will tell us that we've overbooked ourselves because we just can't say "no". Whether we think it'll make us seem rude or we've convinced ourselves that we can handle it, too many of us are filling our plates with way too many obligations. Here’s the deal on how to deal.
First off, decide what really matters in your life. That sounds complicated, but it isn't if you just take a closer look at everything on your to-do list. Are you involved in four different clubs at once? Which of those have something directly to do with your major or something you're passionate about? If you find yourself in horseback riding club, scuba club, poetry club and student government but you're on track to become your state's next senator, consider weeding out a few of your less necessary commitments.
"I'm the captain of my Division 1 varsity golf team, write a weekly column for my student newspaper, I'm taking 18 credit hours, and I manage the Her Campus branch at my school," Jaime Ritter, a junior journalism and English student at University of Alabama at Birmingham. "I balance things by DVRing my favorite shows as a treat when I get done with my homework, blogs, and practice."
Kylie Cole, Prevention and Education Coordinator & Staff Psychologist at the University of Maine, has a few tips for those who have trouble saying “no”.
"Saying ‘no’ is really difficult in the moment, so it is great to make a plan about how much you are willing to take on in a given semester (or week) and try to stick to that," she says.
2. Be Truthful
Here is a secret most collegiettes™ don't know: you do not have to please everyone. In fact, it's impossible! Your job is to do your best in school, enjoy your short time as a college student and follow your dreams. The rest are just details. If you are overwhelmed, be honest!One week you could have a midterm exam, two papers to write and two shifts at work, not to mention an argument with a friend or roommate that's weighing heavy on your heart. This would not be a swell time to add something else to your schedule.
One collegiette™ explains, "I've come to terms with the fact that I can't please everyone, and that has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders."
People reach out to you for favors most often because they know you are responsible and can juggle several commitments at once. However, you're not doing yourself or anyone else a favor by stretching your time so thin that you end up feeling miserable and overworked. You will put less energy into everything you do, and you can bet that person won't want to rely on you again.
"People often expect more of themselves than they do of others, so learning to cut ourselves a break and allow ourselves to take time to take care of ourselves is important," says Cole.
Say your schedule is cramped as is and a member of your debate club asks for last minute help with her speech. Think twice before agreeing. Sure, you want to help him out and be a friend, but you have to be realistic about how many commitments and tasks you can handle at one time.
So if your schedule really has you feeling swamped, tell the person or organization who's asking, politely, "no, thank you. I'm sorry I can't help you out right now but I'm just too busy. Please ask me again at another time." That way you aren't burning bridges, but at the same time you aren't adding another impossible to-do to your already never-ending checklist.