Yesterday, I wrote an outline and the beginnings to a new post to be published today, and I have perhaps another hour left until it would be ready to share. Instead of finishing it up though, I spent my afternoon and evening out in my garden harvesting tomatoes, blueberries, and greens, and tidying up the space after being out of town for a couple of days for a friend’s bachelorette.

In sharing with Kristine this choice, she made the comment that it is “Plants before posts. Always.” Perhaps I need that on a sticker from That Frugal Pharmacist (if you haven’t checked out her Etsy shop, she has some awesome ones!). Really though, I have gotten to the point where I am not feeling guilty about not publishing on Mondays as frequently; instead, I am making sure to pay attention to the cost of saying yes, and when I should simply be saying no. 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic has put this into even sharper perspective than before, and my thoughts from this post back in 2018 feel pretty helpful to navigating this year as well.

So instead of a new post this morning, I’m re-sharing this one from two and a half years ago. If you’ve been following me for a while, this might not be a new one, but it’s an old enough post that perhaps you haven’t. With that, here is to a reminder to you – and to me – that there is a cost to saying yes, and that maybe something good that can come out of this year is a better sense of saying no in order to say yes to the most important things (And thanks to Chelsea from Smart Money Mamas for selecting this one for a Rockstar feature when she was the guest curator – those were the days).

say yes

The True Cost of Saying Yes (As Published April 30, 2018)

Last month, I accepted a four year volunteer term for one of my City’s commissions, which means that I now have an evening commitment twice a month, as well as a lot of reading and studying to do before each meeting. While I’ve been working on simplifying my life and generally reducing my regular commitments, this opportunity came along and I couldn’t say no.

I’m passionate about my city and the long term goals our City Council has laid out, especially in regards to affordable housing and the environment, and so I welcomed the opportunity to play a bigger role in how things look in the future. I simply had to say yes. Yes to helping to shape the future of the city where we are raising our son.

What It Means To Say Yes

There are a million and one things I want to do with my time – cooking, gardening, running, working, adventuring, hosting, volunteering, hiking, camping, teaching – but there are only so many hours in the day. While I am good at saying no to things I really don’t want to do, it is a lot harder to say no when it is something I really do want to do. But when I do say yes to something, it fills a time slot in my precious days. When I worked as a park ranger on the weekends, I said yes to a second income, paid time out on the trails, and an opportunity to teach people about our local plants and animals and history of the parks.

The job included perks like taking family out for canoeing for free

However, saying yes to those weekends meant saying no to truck camping trips, long runs, mornings at church, and hosting dinner parties at our house. Eventually, I decided I needed to say no to something I loved – my park ranger job – in order to say yes to some things that I valued more.

While I occasionally do feel some bittersweet longing for my park ranger days of leading nature walks, I look at our full weekends and have never once regretted walking away. It was an amazing weekend job for 6.5 years, but life moves on, and our time as a family is too important to me. I’ve said no to the parks job in order to say yes to walks in the park as a family. I’ve said no to an extra paycheck in order to say yes to homemade pizza for my son’s birthday.

While there is quite a bit written on the power of saying no*, I have never had trouble saying no to things that don’t bring value to my life. For me, the rub is really when there are multiple things I’d like to say yes to, but simply not enough time to do them all. My parks job was never a negative in my life, but there came a point where it filled space that didn’t allow for other positives instead that mattered more to me.

Too Good To Say No

My new deal is that something has to be too good to say no to, not simply good enough to say yes. Any time I say yes to one opportunity, it means that I have to say no to something else down the line. I’ve said no to working my second job. I’ve said no to working full time. I’ve said no to expanding our garden. I’ve said no to training for another half marathon. I’ve continued to say no to very good things, in order to have the ability to say yes to others.

Sometimes that space in my life means saying yes to a park date with my son on a sunny spring afternoon. Sometimes it means the ability to pack up the truck and go camping for that weekend. And sometimes, it means committing to long meetings at City Hall twice a month for four years. I will continue to keep that space in my life – to continue to say no to good things – in order to be able to say yes to only the very best things.

Another quick weekend away

In all parts of my life, I’m working on keeping that standard when it comes to adding new commitments. Something might sound fun, but unless it is absolutely too good to pass up, I will say no, in order to keep space for the things that I have to say yes to. My new meetings are late in the evening, and they mean I’m up well past my bedtime, but it’s an honor to serve and something I will make room for in my life no matter what.

I can’t predict the future, but much like our pursuit of financial independence without the drive to retire early, I want options in my life. I want to choose what is very best for our family, outside of financial and time constraints. In order to have that flexibility, I have to continue to be as cognizant of our time as I am of our money.

*Young FIRE Knight wrote a great article recently about the power of no and the importance of offers you can’t refuse. He got me thinking about my philosophy about what I say yes to, and I highly recommend you check it out.

What is your approach to what you choose to say yes to? Have you ever said no to something great to make room for something even better?

16 thoughts on “The True Cost of Saying Yes (Revisited)

  1. I remember the first time I learned about opportunity cost in an economics class, it kinda blew my mind. Curious how we return to the same lesson repeatedly, if we’re lucky. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I took environmental economics, which put a whole extra spin on that too.

  2. This is true of all things in life. It’s all about choices and priorities. Time is like money. There’s only so much to go around. Unlike money, you can’t make more time so we have to use it wisely.

  3. This is a timely repost given my recent lamenting about accidentally / unintentionally overcommitting in a big way to a few too many things this past weekend. They were important things but there’s a huge human cost to having taken them on all at the same time. Ah well. My hope is to do all the things I’ve committed to, taking nothing else on, and ride out this monster wave I made for myself. And leave to do better next month, NOT taking on three extra high impact projects, much less all at the same time.

    1. It is a constant recheck for me…. the downside of so many good things to say yes to!

  4. I’ll be the first to admit – I suck at saying no! 10 years into my career, I’ve gotten better, and it’s one of my goals as a mentor to new agents to make sure they understand that it IS okay to say no, ways I’ve learned to say no, and how to do it without guilt.

    Loved this article – and yes, always plants before posts!

    1. It is so so hard to say no! It helps me for sure reframing as what I can say yes to.

  5. Hi Angela – This is the first time I am commenting here, but have been enjoying reading your posts for a while. There are so many things that are good enough to say yes to, so I like the way you frame it as “too good to say no to” rather than “good enough to say yes to”. That cuts down the list a lot.

    I said yes to too many (virtual) things when quarantine started, so now I am trying to figure out how to pull back and say no to some of them. I can definitely relate to this post, so thanks for re-sharing it!

    1. Thank you for the feedback! And I can definitely relate to saying too many virtual things early on – Zoom gets exhausting, even with favorite people.

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