The Big Idea
When we do less, we can achieve more.
Questions I Answer
- How can I say no kindly?
- How do I set better boundaries?
- How can I communicate my boundaries?
- Why are my boundaries always ignored?
Actions to Take
- Where are you saying “yes” in your life where you shouldn’t be? Take some time to reflect on this. Set some boundaries with family, friends and even at work around saying “yes”. Think about where your time is most valuable and focus on only saying “yes” to what aligns with this.
- Take part in our virtual book club for my book, The Joy of Missing Out. If you haven’t already picked up your copy, head to joyofmissingout.com or your favorite retailer.
Key Topics in the Show
Struggling to have ownership over your day and time
Realizing that sometimes, less is more
Figuring out what is most valuable so you can determine where to say “yes”
Learning how to separate a request from the relationship
Using the sandwich strategy to say “no” with ease
Resources and Links
- Related Episodes: Episode 141: Saying No So You Can Find Your Yes
Welcome to productivity paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on finding
true happiness through productivity. Season 12 is different from any she’s done before with real conversations with real women, applying strategies and concepts
explored in The Joy of Missing Out.
This season, you’ll learn how to live more by doing less. And now here’s your host,
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host,
Tanya Dalton. This is episode 146. This season of the podcast is all about the joy of missing out. We’re taking a lot of the concepts and the strategies that we discuss in the book, and we’re laying them out and really applying them into real everyday life.
For this season of the podcast, we’re doing a call-in style show where ! dive into some of my listeners’ stumbling blocks. Together, we work to solve them and help them feel a little more JOMO. Speaking of JOMO, if you’re listening to this episode, the day it goes live, you probably know today is the first of our four live virtual book clubs. These are get togethers that we’re going to do on Facebook Live where you can ask questions about the book and I’ll be answering them together with you.
If you’re interested in being a part of that, just go to joyofmissingout.com/bookclub. I would absolutely love to see you there. As I mentioned, it’s four times that we’re going to get together to really dive into the book. It should be a lot of fun. All right. Speaking of a lot of fun, let’s get into today‘s episode because today is really about boundaries, how to set up those boundaries because I think that’s one of
the things that so many people struggle with.
We feel guilty for setting of our boundaries, for communicating our boundaries. In an effort to make everybody else happy, we ended up chasing our tail, feeling frustrated, feeling overwhelmed, and, quite frankly, exhausted. Donna and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about this exact issue and knowing that Donna was not alone, we recorded our conversation. Let me give you a little background on Donna.
She’s a married mom with twin 16-year-old boys. She’s a self-employed producer of children’s books and animated feature films based on books that her husband has written. She’s a community and political advocate, a school volunteer, and has a real passion for animals. But she’s struggling right now with managing her afternoons. She needs some help figuring out what to do about how she’s spending excessive
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amounts of time in the car after school, which is causing her to feel overwhelmed.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m different. I don’t have kids, or my kids don’t have that many afterschool activities,” or something else to say that your situation is different. But, truly, what Donna and I and what we’re going to cover in our second half of the show applies to anyone who has struggled to feel like they don’t always have ownership over their day.
Think about what we talk about and how it applies to you and your life because as you know, I’m all about making your planning personal, customizing it to work for you and your life. All right. Let’s chat with Donna Donna, I’m so happy to have you on the show today.
Thanks, Tanya. I’m super excited to be here. Super, super excited.
Thave a small business with my husband. I’ve got twin boys who are juniors in high school who are not driving yet. I spend an inordinate amount of hours in the car driving them everywhere back and forth from activities and school and everything else. I’ve just tried so many different planning strategies to help me feel like I’m making progress with getting a handle on my schedule and making sure that my afternoons aren’t a hot mess.
The biggest thing I’m having a problem with is the timeframes and the scheduling in the afternoons because, literally, once like school pickup hits, I’m okay in the mornings. But once we’ll pick up hits, you might as well write me off until that time.
Right. That makes sense. No, I totally understand because we’re in similar phases of life because I also have a junior in high school. I don’t have two that are juniors. You have twins, but it is. There’s a lot going on with afterschool activities and everything else. I totally understand that. It’s easier to feel like you have control over your morning, and they have some ownership over that, but then you throw in the kids in the afternoon and things tend to kind of spin a little bit out of control because you don’t have as much control. Here’s my question for you. What is it that feels out of control for you? Is it the time or is it something else? Is it that maybe you are saying yes to a lot of things that you should be saying no to? What do you think it is?
Oh my gosh. 1 [inaudible 00:04:54] what you think.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s what I do here.
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I think that’s a very good question. I think a big part of my problem is for the last, oh, I don’t know however many years they’ve been in school, 1 just keep saying yes, I think that’s a big part of the problem. But another part is of some afternoons I try to plan like, “Okay, somebody’s got to be here at five and here at seven.” In between, I can do something for dinner and then it all ends up in a haze towards the end of the day, and I’m not quite sure how we get to the haze. I just know that once I pick them up, they’re like, “Oh wait, I forgot this, or, wait, I need to do this or somebody needs me to do this,” or I don’t know. It just always ends up a mess.
Okay. Let’s focus in on one of those. Do you want to talk about that what you just mentioned, or do you want to talk about needing to say no a little more often? I know which one I want to lean towards [crosstalk 00:05:46].
Okay. Why don’t you tell me which one you want to lean towards because I’m guessing it’s probably the same no more often.
Yes, it is. Look at you. You already know. You’re exactly right.
Because for years, I’ve always said yes.
Why do you think you say yes so readily and so easily?
A lot of times, I just feel like I’m the only one who can do something or if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Then, I need to get to that point to where you say yes so many times that people just are like, “Oh, you know what? I know if we need somebody to do it, I know we’ll get it done,” because she’s good for that. Then, if it’s something for school or something for one of my kids, I don’t want to say no because I want to be there for my kids, but at the same time, I’m looking at my watch going, “How am I going to be here and there and, oh, we’re here and back there.”
That right there, my friend, is what’s contributing to that feeling of being in a haze because you’re saying yes to so many things. Yes to this, yes to that, yes to this. You’re looking at your time and you’re saying, “Yes, I can say yes to something at five, and I can say yes to something at seven.” But here’s the truth. Having the time doesn’t equal a yes. That is a really hard thing for us to sometimes come to grasp with because we think, “Well, I’ve got 15 minutes, I can take care of this.” Generally, it’s, “I can take care of this 30-minute activity. I’ve got 15 minutes.”
That’s spot on. Yeah.
That’s one of the things that happens. Here’s the thing. We go through an entire finding your yes blueprint in the book. The question of whether
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you have the time is not until like three questions in because, a lot of times, we default to saying yes because, “Well, I feel like I have the time., so, therefore, it needs to be a yes.” I want you to first ask yourself, “Why do I want to say yes to this? What is the reason this opportunity or this task or this project? What is it about this that I really want to do? Why do I want to do it?” I want you to start there with asking yourself that first. Do you do that?
Of course not.
No. You just look at your calendar, and go, “I have time. I can do this.”
No. Actually, most of the time, it literally hits me like while I’m in the car driving and someone will go, “Oh hey, we need to do this.” I’ll look at my watch and I’ll go, “Okay, well, we don’t have to be here until then. Yeah, we can squeeze that in.” That’s what it is. It’s, “Oh, I can squeeze that in.”
It is. It’s, “I think I can squeeze it in,” and then, we’re squeezing in 20 minutes of tasks into a five-minute window. That’s when everything’s kind of busting out at the scenes giving you that feeling of being in a haze.
Yeah. Then my husband, usually with our business, he has conference calls, like he can have conference calls anytime of the day or night. If he’s on calls, most of the time, if I say, “Okay, babe, I’ve got to be over here. Can you do this?” He’ll run and pick up somebody or drop off some news. But a lot of times between those hours of like three and eight at night or his busiest conference call times, and I’m busier in the mornings with our business and then he’s busy in the afternoons, and so I guess I’m just busy all the time.
You are busy all the time. This is a thing too. I think you have to take that into an account that maybe you need to really recognize the fact that he’s not able to help you from that three o’clock to eight o’clock hour. Just because you have that time doesn’t mean it needs to be a yes. It really needs to fit into why are you taking this on? Sometimes, one of the things I’m hearing from you is separating that request from the relationship that this is for the boys. Therefore, it needs to be a yes because if I don’t say yes to this, this somehow is a reflection on how I love them or how I feel about them. That’s part of the reason why we want to say yes because you love your boys
Yeah. They‘re 16. I feel like I have to do absolutely everything right now because I’ve got like two years left. Then, they’re going to be done with high school, and I want to do it all, but there’s really no way I can do it
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Right. There really isn’t. I feel you on this because I keep saying I’m on the countdown with Jack because being him being 16, I’ve got two years. I’m really like squeezing every last drop out of you as possibly can. But here’s the question. Is your time best spent doing 10 different yeses where you’re spreading yourself thin, doing 10 yeses halfway good, or is it better to say yes to two things that you can really give your time, your energy and your focus and do something really incredible for your boys and for your relationship? Which one of those is really the best way to
Well, it’s going to be the two, obviously,
Well, I kind of seeded that. Didn’t I kind of force your hand on that?
Yeah. You helped me step into that giant hole on that one?
I did. I did it. I very purposely put that right in front of you so you would fall right into it. But it’s true. We want to say yes to everything. We have to remember that every time we say yes, we’re saying no to something else. Sometimes, these yeses you’re saying yes too is actually taking away a lot of that time, energy, and focus away from your boys themselves because you’re running errands. You’re driving here and there in the car, and you’re not really having bigger chunks of time that you really focused in on them.
If you reframe it and you’d stop looking at these opportunities as a reflection of your relationship with your boys, would that help you to really not say yes as much? If you really thought about what are the top two or top three things that I should say yes to that will really make an impact for my relationship with them and really maximize my time with them, would that make it easier?
Yeah. I think it would.
Yeah. I think this is the thing. More is just more.
More doesn’t necessarily mean better.
It doesn’t mean better. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving yourself the way that you really want to, to your kids. We feel like we have to say yes to everything because more is more, but really, less is more. I mean the subtitle of my book is Live More by Doing More because when you they do less, you’re able to pour more of yourself into it. You’re really going to be doing not just your best work but giving it your full focus. That’s really what you want to give your kids. You’re wanting to give them your focus because that’s you pouring your love into them. Is that an accurate statement?
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Yeah. I think that’s the biggest struggle is I want to do it all, but I can’t do it all. I do think a lot of times, there’s only a portion of me there when I am doing like a million things. I’ll be, “Oh, my gosh, I forgot to do this.” I’m on my phone. Even though I’m doing something with them, I’m on my phone, but I forgot to do this email or I forgot to [crosstalk 00:12:06]. I forgot to do that.
It’s more, but it’s not more quality necessarily. It’s more quantity. We get caught in this trap where we’re looking at quantity over the quality. Here’s what I would challenge you to do. I’d love for you to sit down with your family and really talk to your boys and talk to your husband. What are the opportunities that come up that would really be meaningful for you to be a part of?
Let’s say just for the sake of the show, let’s say that one of your boys is really into lacrosse. For him, you spending time on things that are lacrosse-focused would mean much more to him than you spending time on things that are [inaudible 00:12:42] focus or other activities. Maybe, if you sit down and really discover what is important to them, that would help you prioritize those yeses for yourself. Would that be helpful?
Yeah, I really haven’t even asked them where I should .. If I’m going to put this much time in, where would you rather have me spend my time? It makes sense that at this point, it’s not like there’s three and they can’t articulate what’s most important. I should just ask them where would you like to put my time in the time we have (crosstalk 00:13:11]?
Absolutely. I think one of the things you’re getting caught into is this idea of this story that you’re telling yourself that a good mom always says yes to the thanks for her kids, always volunteers for these projects. Really, let’s sit down. Let’s talk to them. Let’s see what’s truly important to them. Then, you can focus on those things and you can say no to the rest. What do you think about that idea?
I think that’s exactly spot on. The one thing I haven’t done is ask them and they really should.
Do you think that within the next, I want to say, week, but I’ll give you two weeks, you could sit down and really map this out with your boys because you’ve got two school years left with them at home. Let’s really ask them what they want to do.
I want to do it this weekend.
I love it. Good. I like the sound of that even better, Donna. Awesome.
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I don’t want two weeks because if I have two weeks, I will go,”I’ll get to it later. I’ll get to it later.”
Yes, that’s true.
I’ll keep running on my own. I want to do it this weekend and ask them where the time should be best then.
I love the sound of that. All right. I do want to talk a little bit more in the second half of the show about what happens when you are the go-to person. It really feels hard to say no. We’re going to talk about that in the second half of the show. But before we get into that second half of the show, let’s give a quick shout out to today’s sponsor.
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Did you hear yourself in that conversation that Donna and I had? You see that the heart of the issue here was that Donna was having a hard time saying no. I know this is definitely something I hear all the time from women. It’s a struggle. You can see in our conversation that, for Donna, it’s separating the request from the relationship. It’s so hard to say no when it’s for her boys. Have you ever experienced that, that the relationship makes it harder to say no to your best friend or to your spouse or to your boss or to that lady in your volunteer organization who always seems to look down her nose at you, so you feel like you have to say yes? Yeah, we all feel that way from time to time.
But, honestly, we have to realize that by saying no, it’s not an act of withholding our love or our respect. It’s not tied to how dedicated you
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are. In fact, often by saying no, we’re able to really give our best selves to the tasks that are truly important. Instead of spreading yourself thin and saying yes to 20 things and doing them halfway well, let’s say yes to five things and do them extraordinarily well.
When we choose, when we give ourselves to fewer things, we’re able to
give our best selves. I think we can all agree we want to do our best work. It’s stopping to ask yourself, “Am I gifting myself my time, my energy, my focus to the things that matter most?” Remember, those are our three most precious resources. Once given, they cannot be gotten back. When we invest ourselves in our yeses, we want to make them count. But what do you do when other people start counting on you even without your consent? When you become that go-to person like Donna was talking about, they say, “Oh, give it to Donna. She always does a great job.”
Greg McKeown, he calls this the paradox of success. You do something really well. The next time an opportunity comes around, it just automatically seems to fall into your lap. You hate to push it away because, well, people are counting on you. Let’s be honest. It feels really good to have people recognize our good work, doesn’t it? Here’s the truth. We are wired to say yes. It’s in our DNA. Our cave ancestors needed that in their brains to encourage them to live into groups and to thrive. It’s easy to understand that we hate to set up those boundaries. We want to be part of the tribe. This is why saying yes feels so good for 10 seconds until you realize what you just said yes to.
Listen, just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. I mean, I’m really good at math, but I’m not going to do my accounting. I could, but I would hate it. I really would. I could also hang from my fingernails for 10 minutes if I have to, but it doesn’t mean that I should. Here’s a little truth. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
The problem is that it becomes this expectation. Everyone assumes that you can and should just do the job because while you can, and it’s flattering. I mean you are good at what you do and that feels good. But it also makes it more difficult to say no, doesn’t it? It all goes back to that sandwich strategy technique that we talk about in the book. If you haven’t read the book, you can actually listen to that whole chapter here on the podcast if you miss that.
| posted the audio book as the whole chapter of the book back in the last season. If you want to go back and listen to that. When someone says, “Donna can run the whole school carnival because she did such an amazing job on that fundraiser last year,” we need to use those same two slices of kindness with our solid no right there in the middle.
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Use that sandwich strategy so you could say, “Thank you so much. I’m so glad you feel like the fundraiser last year was a success. That did take up a lot of my time last fall, and I was happy to do it. But, unfortunately this year, I have a few other priorities that are taking up my time sol won’t be able to organize the carnival. I love that you’re trying to do something different this year, and I know it will be a success.”
Did you see that there? Kindness at the beginning, kindness at the end. Then, there’s that meet in the middle, that solid no. You could say, “Since I have some experience running an event, I’d be happy to meet with whoever ends up taking this on to give them a few pointers of what I found successful.” Of course, keep in mind that’s ultimately up to you.
One thing to consider to make it feel a little bit better for ourselves when we’re the go-to person is pull together a few of those tips and ideas you’ve gotten by gathering them together into a folder that you can pass along to whoever’s going to take on this project. You may have a paper trail of emails that you sent back and forth with a vendor that might be helpful to print out, or maybe even a list of key people who were instrumental in helping get the event or whatever it was off the
Ultimately, what we want to do here is this. We want to let go of the guilt. Don’t feel bad for saying no. Giving someone else a roadmap so they can help drive the car helps with that. But the catch here is set up a container of time to pull those things together, maybe an hour, two at the very most to pull this folder of information together. Don’t get sucked into pulling together a three-inch color-coded binder that’s going to take you three days to create.
Set up your boundaries. Stake them out. Clearly communicate them. I’m not going to dive too much into this because I feel like I go really in depth in the book on this, but I want to remind you of this, that if you don’t clearly stake your borders with what’s okay and what isn’t, it’s so easy for people to invade our sacred spaces and to eat away at our time.
But if you’re the one who’s always saying yes, then, that’s setting up expectations. Communication, just like we talked about with Donna and her husband and the boys can really help alleviate some of the guilt you have. It’s always so eye opening to have those conversations and see what expectations the other people have and how they may not actually align with the stories you’ve been telling yourself.
It really is so helpful to have those conversations. Honestly, setting your boundaries is a great source of freedom. It allows you to spend your time in ways that make a bigger, more meaningful impact. It truly frees you up to make the difference you want in your life and in the lives of everyone else. I hope today’s episode of talking with Donna and hearing
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that conversation and how we worked through it, I hope you can see how that applies into your own life. I would love to know what you thought of today’s episode.
You could post an Insta story with a picture of this episode on your phone or just do a post and tag me sharing what you thought. I’d love for us to connect and keep this conversation going. Speaking of having conversations, I want to let you know that next week, we’re starting our November challenge in my Facebook group.
We are doing a no-stress November challenge because I know we’re kicking off that holiday season, and it gets so stressful. I’ve got some tips and ideas on how to make Thanksgiving feel a little bit easier as we start to ease into the holidays. Next week, I’ll have a special guest here. Jess Ekstrom will be joining us to talk about optimism. I cannot wait for you to hear what she has to say. Don’t forget that book club starts tonight and will be for the next four weeks. Go to joyofmissingout.com/bookclub to make sure you don’t miss out. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. Want to learn more about your unique productivity style? Simply go to Tanyadalton.com to take her free quiz and get free
resources designed just for you. That’s Tanya, with an O and a Y.
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