Do You Suffer From Yes-itis? The Joy of Saying No (or Yes to Yourself)

Say *no* when you are drowning.

I wrote last week about being thankful for saying no.

It can be easy to all of sudden find yourself with a big case of yes-itis.  You're feeling overscheduled, overworked, tired, and your calendar looks as if it's for no less than 5 people, but really, those are just things scheduled for yourself.

I have had yes-itis.  I still get it and constantly have to remind myself to be mindful of my choices, to pay attention and really consider what I say yes to.  When it comes to yes-itis, I am not immune to it. I  

Yes-itis can come in many forms and for many reasons.  Here are few I have suffered from--

1)  The Good Intentions Yes - This is saying yes to something because you really believe you can do it and you want to do it.

2)  The Pleaser Yes - Saying yes to something you really don't want to do, but you don't want to make the person feel bad or let him/her down (i.e.  Your boss asks you if you can work this weekend and while you were really going to spend that time writing, you don't want to let her down.)

3)  The It's-So-Far-In-The-Future-It-Will-By-Fine Yes - This is when you say yes to something --say a longer trip or a bigger project - but it's so far ahead in the future you figure by the time you get there you'll 1) be caught up with your other stuff  2) will want to do it  3) won't have anything else going on then .

4) The It's-So-Far-In-The-Future-I'll-Come-Up-With-A-Reason-Later-To-Cancel Yes - This is the yes, where you really want to say no (and plan on it), but you say yes because you were either surprised to be asked (and didn't want to disappoint) or had no intention of doing it anyway.  BTW, this is the Yes-itis to cure with 5 (or 10) simple words:  Let me think about it.  Or Let me think about it, and get back to you.

5)  The Guilt Yes: Saying yes to something because you feel you should do it (insert any instance of being a parent-volunteer, making a donation, etc.)  

6)  The This-Sounds-Like-So-Much-Fun Yes - This can happen to optimistic people a lot because when someone comes to you with a great idea you think-- yes, you want to do that.  Yes, that sounds like so much fun.  Yes, I'd love to be part of your a) bowling league  b) new project  c) Cocktail party  d) ___________ (fill in the blank with anything you love to do here).  So when asked you say yes!, and mix that with #1 above, where you plan on doing it and you mark it on your calendar, you find yourself later, when you have time to think about it, that omg, Geez, I'm swamped!  I just want some down time.


For me, I've found much of the solution to this is really considering each request and knowing my priorities in life which are - family, friends, and work/writing (and not always necessarily in that order).    

During grad school, I only said yes to things that had to do with family or poetry.  Friends got knocked to the bottom of my list during that intense time. I felt bad about not being able to attend every gathering or coffee date, but it kept me sane.

Now what I do to guarantee I have time for myself and my writing is that I schedule it in as you would a doctor's appt.  I will take a block of time (like today) and on my calendar is says, "Kelli's Writing Day" from 9-4.  If someone asks me if I want to go get coffee on that day, I say, "Sorry, I have something scheduled then" or "I have a prior commitment" or if I know them well and they know me well (& respect my time/priorities) I say, "Sorry, that's my writing day."  

It was a huge epiphany to me when I discovered this many many years ago.  Schedule in my own time.  Just as when you're trying to save money, you pay yourself first.

Still, it can be hard to say no to people, so if you're not good at doing it in person and would feel more comfortable saying no by phone or email or carrier pigeon, let these 5 words, "Let me think about it."   These are some of the best words out there, worth their wait in gold!

They let you determine at a later time whether this is something you can do or not.  The give you breathing room and take the focus off of you to give an answer.

As I give this advice, know for a fact that much of this post is a just a major reminder to myself.  When it comes to saying no, I suck at it.  But I'm getting better and learning more.

January joked on her blogs that it should have been a no-brainer to know her limitations, but we do it each day.  We move into the water and into the water and the next thing we know, we're drowning in too much to do. And much of it was a choice.

I know I have been the little man on the sign above.

Maybe one day I'll have the pill for yes-itis (maybe I'll just have to wear a button that says, "This woman suffers from yes-itis, please do not ask for answers on the spot") but until then I'll practice saying no to things I really can't do, don't want to do, or if I did do I'd be the person halfway underwater.

I'll continue to work at it.  We're not perfect, we're human, and we get better, then screw up and find us relearning the same lesson.  That's life.  So we practice saying no and yes to ourselves.  And if that doesn't work, I'll start an Etsy shop to sell those dang buttons.



  1. Soundings reminded me to look at your blog and I was so glad I did! For one thing, it reminded me of Lent and I always like to do something meaningful for Lent, and for another, it reminded me of my own yes-itis. Maybe I could stop saying Yes for Lent??

  2. Great post, Kelli -- and so important! For all of us, and especially for us writers. :)

  3. "Let me think about it." Perfect! Thanks for the good advice. I wrote the words on a post it and stuck them to my computer. Hope this reminds me every day!

  4. Anon-- Yes! (er, I mean, No, don't say Yes!) Giving up YES for Lent would be perfect!

    Midge-- always good!

    Sandy-- L.M.T.A.I. - Let me think about it. Such a lifesaver for me!


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