How To: Put Yourself First & Say 'No'

Time is our most valuable resource. Spending it on things that really matter, with people we actually love, is therefore in our best interest. How is it, then,  that we often say 'yes' to situations that don’t really light us up? In this blog post, we offer tips on how to put your well-being first and set healthy boundaries with the art of saying ‘no’.


A friend in his early 40’s recently said that he only had around 40 more summers left in his lifetime. Woah. When we think about time like this, breaking it down into the seasons remaining, we are reminded how precious time is.  We humans have a finite amount of days on this planet and time is our most valuable resource. Spending it on things that really matter, with people  we actually love is therefore in our best interest.

That's nothing new, right? I'm not making a groundbreaking discovery here, I know. 

So why do we find ourselves saying 'yes' when we really want to say 'no'?


"In order to say yes to your priorities,  you have to be willing to say no to something else" 


The shortest answer - fear of rejection. Nobody wants to risk a relationship with their family, friends or coworkers by refusing their requests and potentially hurting or disappointing them.

On top of that,  what often comes with saying 'no' is the  feeling of guilt. It's a natural human desire to be likeable, unproblematic and agreeable. And before giving it any thought, we catch ourselves saying 'yes', knowing very well that we're taking too much on our plate. 

The results of spreading ourselves too thin?

Loss of time, low quality of work, growing stress, frustration and resentment towards significant people in our lives, or even the infamous burnout

There's no one-size-fits-all solution in this case. However, there are some things worth keeping in mind when prioritising yourself.


Here's a list of tips on how to put yourself first and say 'no' effectively:

1. Remember Your Priorities

What are the top 5 crucial things in your life? 
What are your long-term goals? 
What values do you want to embody?

Take time to reflect and write down the answers to these questions. Doing so regularly realigns you with what you deem to be most important in your life. 

Next time someone asks you a favour, reflect on these notes (you might even like to keep a copy on your phone!)  Recognise that saying  'yes' to one thing reduces the time spent you can spend on your priorities.. If the request is not connected to these priorities, are you willing to sacrifice your time?

2. Be Unapologetic

I'm sure that we all were taught in childhood to always politely say 'yes' since saying 'no' is seen as rude and selfish. That's why we tend to apologise so much

The truth is that turning down someone's request with a 'sorry' only weakens our whole message. There are many different ways to say 'no' and still come across as respectful and polite. 

Instead try:
 “That sounds great, I’ll pass this time.”  
“Thanks so much for thinking of me. Right now my priorities are elsewhere so I’ll decline.”


3. No Explanation Needed:

People have this habit of sprinkling 'no' with excuses, justifications and backstories. 

First of all, you do not owe anyone an explanation. Remember your right to say 'no' at all times without sugar-coating it.

Secondly, the shorter your response, the better. Judith Martin said it best:

"Part of the skill of saying no is to shut up afterwards and not babble on, offering material for an argument."

4. Take Your Time:

Often, when faced with a friend asking for a favour, we blurt out 'yes' before giving it a single thought. 

Create mindful space for yourself to really contemplate whether to agree to something or not. There's no need to react in the heat of the moment. Take the unnecessary pressure off your shoulders and get back to someone after some consideration. A phrase I like is: “Let me marinate on that and I’ll come back to you with an answer”.

'The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities' - Stephen Covey


Feel the sense of liberation that comes with scheduling your priorities and saying 'no' to everything else. Free yourself of guilt when choosing to pay attention to your wellbeing rather than everyone else. Keep your eyes on the real prize here - supporting abundant, healthy life following your values.

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments down below but remember you can always say 'no' to that too 🙂 

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