About a year ago (pre-packing up & moving to Oakland. pre-trying to settle us in a new ‘hood. pre-really having any sense of what busy really truly was…) I made a decision to change the way I spoke.
You see, when asked to participate in something (work or pleasure), Id noticed Id begun to respond:
Gosh, school volunteering/book club/starting a girl scout troop etc sounds great—Im just too busy right now.
It wasnt a lie per se as my feeling *slammed* & busy really was the direct result of too many YESes.
(MizFit note: A friend & I like to refer to this TOO BUSY! feeling as ‘being in the corner.’ A shortened, slang’ish version of being backed into a corner. As in “Ugh. Im having a rough morning. Im in the corner.” I love the phrase & its accompanying visual.)
The problem/mental discord with my state of busyness arose—as it often does—-when stepped back and was honest with myself.
I lived with margins. I was busy. We all are, but when I declined an opportunity it was entirely because it was not a priority in that moment.
The realization—while initially uncomfortable—was not necessarily a bad thing.
When I stopped to consider it I was forced to acknowledge Id conveyed the priority sentiment all along each time I said NO.
(Again not a bad thing. Im a big advocate of NOing & believe in drawing boundaries in Sharpie as it keeps me out of said corner.)
The change occurred when I chose to no longer to say the phrase:
Im too busy
And instead replace it with:
It’s not a priority right now
- Do you want to join our book club? It’s not a priority right now.
- Will you come to my twitter chat? It’s not a priority right now.
- Do you wanna see a movie? It’s not a priority right now.
I never actually used those words as, to me, they felt borderline rude . I imagined saying them, the reaction they’d garner and *challenged* myself to decide if that was really the sentiment I wanted to convey.
Sometimes it was precisely what I meant & needed only to be more gently phrased (it wasnt a priority to see a movie. the Tornado has circus class at the same time. right now she’s my priority).
Other times it was not what I intended at all.
And many times my immediate reaction of being too “busy” was in direct opposition to my striving to live my priorities.
Changing how I phrased my NO’s (even only in my head) served as a repeated reminder life didnt just happen to me. Every action, every commitment, every addition to my ever-growing to-do list was a choice.
This shift in semantics has been a struggle.
Yet removing my ability to give the ‘socially acceptable’ answer (when did being busy!busy! become an admirable trait?) has immeasurably helped me prioritize my life.
Flash forward to the other night.
Flash forward to my being asked to do something.
Flash forward to my semi-overwhelmed gut reaction being:
I’d love to. It would be fun. Im just too busy right now.
Flash forward to my learned mental rephrasing of:
Im sorry. That just isnt a priority for me right now.
Flash forward to my reflexive (finally! took a year!) internal evaluation/realization of:
YES. Yes Im busy. Yes Ill do this. Yes it’s a priority!
Why am I sharing this today?
Because Im grateful.
- Im thankful someone took the time to share the concept above with me.
- Im grateful Ive made the choice to feel the discomfort that comes from acknowledging to myself what’s a priority and what’s not.
- I appreciate I learned life “in the corner” is not a badge of honor *before* I missed out on things/experiences.
In that vein, I give you the Tornado’s elementary school’s new mascot.
I learned the hard way, however (oops!), Im not supposed to tell my seven year old friends it’s me.
- Have you swapped the phrase “Im too busy” for “It’s not a priority right now” too?
- How did it feel to you?
Deborah saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 1:35 am
I’m such a softie that I’d even have trouble telling someone that ‘they’ (or their priority) wasn’t a priority for me. I still tend to fib about it I have to admit! I worry too much about hurting their feelings…
But, it is hard to say no and I wish I was better at it!
Angela @ Happy Fit Mama saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 2:08 am
I’m actually very good at saying NO and am trying to be better at saying YES. However, I don’t know if I could say YES to being the school mascot…handlers, claustrophobia,the sweat factor. And your last pic…totally creepy, btw! 🙂
crabby mcslacker saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 7:16 am
Angela, totally with you on both the reflexive “No” and the horror of getting into that claustrophobic costume. Though I wouldn’t mind having a couple of handlers to guide me through life. Maybe I wouldn’t get lost all the time.
And yay for you Miz, for being so flexible about your priorities!
I think the notion of consciously choosing priorities is really powerful. But like many others, I’m a total believer in acknowledging the potential worthiness of a requested activity diplomatically to make the asker feel ok, while still staying in complete control in my own head of how I want to spend my time. “Sounds like a great idea, SO wish I could help!” But, um, hell no, that is so not something I’m gonna take on.
Matt @ Your Living Body saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 8:37 am
That’s just like me…I say no too often. My wife on the other hand…she could definitely benefit from using the phrase, “it’s not a priority right now.”
Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 2:20 am
I have never used that phrase for fears of coming off rude. I simply say no.
Captain Competition saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:29 am
I agree, it comes out of my mouth and sounds a little harsh. Telling someone that they (or their thing/idea/plan/event) is not a priority is hard for me to do without sounding mean. I think I need a little more practice with it, I guess.
Amanda @runtothefinish saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 3:46 am
I posted about this awhile back in relation to health. When someone says they don’t have time for a walk or to chose an apple…it’s just not a priority.
I have always been pretty good at saying no in life, but bad about it with work. So I would end up truly overwhelmed and as noted saying yes to things I didn’t want which then even if you aren’t busy…just makes you feel busy because you are unhappy.
I’ll always be learning, but I”m so much better!! Thanks my cougar friend 🙂
Marcia saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:07 am
Excellent reframing! Somewhere along the line it seems as though being ‘too busy’ equated with popularity so everyone is ‘too busy’. I stick with a simple ‘no, but thanks for thinking of me’. I think you will make a rocking cougar, BTW. 🙂
Olive saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:04 am
Busy does seem to be a badge now.
As if I’m not important if I’m not overwhelmed.
Barbara saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:09 am
I’m in a phase of taking more on this year since I do have more time this year.
Still, I’m selective and honest with people stating that I don’t bite off more than I can chew.
Unless we’re talking about cheesecake. 😉
Linz @ Itz Linz saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:15 am
not a priority RIGHT NOW – love that!
lori @momisreading saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:31 am
BRILLIANT! Love this post AND your new gig as mascot. Tornado must be thrilled about this.
Kat saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:45 am
The power to say no is a tough one!
Nellie saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:58 am
I am terrible at too many yes’. I like this phrase, I like the challenge it invokes.
Olive saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:03 am
It would feel too rude for me to say, but I like the idea of thinking and rephrasing it.
Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:06 am
I tend to say YES a lot and definitely need to work on saying NO more … especially with all the big changes ahead for me and my family!
Melissa saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:08 am
How could anyone pass up the chance to wear that?!
Maureen saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:20 am
I have no problem saying “no.” Yet, when asked I respond “I am too busy.” In my head I know it’s not a priority, but saying those words out loud just sounds rude. As long as I know what my reasoning is, I am okay with just saying “no.”
Runner Girl saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:21 am
I want to be you when I grown up, Miz.
Jody - Fit at 55 saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:35 am
It is an interesting concept & love that you have done this for you. For me, I may be able to say internally but outwardly I think I will still try to say something that comes off less .. well, that the person is not that important. I GET IT! I usually do not say I am busy only.. I may explain why I am busy or that I already have another commitment. but just being honest, not sure if I could say it is not a priority to someone because some people may just not get it & I don’t want to hurt anyone feelings especially friends.. Saying all that, I have gotten much better at saying no when I really don’t want to do something… or can’t do something,
Dick Carlson saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:36 am
Wow. I’m known for being blunt and offensive, and I don’t think I could say those words because they sound just too rude and unfeeling to me.
The subtext I hear is “YOUR thing is not important.” At least if I say “I’M busy” (which is true) it gives them the space to think that their thing is important, valued, and I appreciate it.
I might have feelings, after all. Not sure I like this.
christieo saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:47 am
LMAO!!!!!!! That twist at the end of you being the mascot made me laugh out loud! I too have stopped saying the actual words “I’m too busy” mainly because I really hate hearing other people say it. Theoretically we are ALL too busy. I don’t want to live my life like I’m too busy for anything. I did start saying, “I wish I could…” on certain things, because I’ve acknowledged and have become ok with not being able to do it all but certainly wanting to. One of my best movements this year was getting rid of the guilt over any decision whatsoever and I echo the fact that it helps to get rid of the guilt when you are not running around trying to catch up with life but instead inflicting yourself on your own life and allowing some amount of space for “xyz” to come up, deciding with purpose what your to-do list will be. Quite like a budget, life needs some amount of breathing room.
Mindy @ Road Runner Girl saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:53 am
Oh yes I definitely struggle with saying no…I want to do it all! But that usually leads to me getting stressed out and not doing my best. LOVE the priority statement!
Healthy Mama saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:53 am
I am too honest and blunt.
I do say “This isn’t a priority right now” verbatim.
HappinessSavouredHot saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:54 am
I have ABSOLUTELY swaped “I’m too busy” for “It’s not a priority”. I don’t even allow myself to pronounce those words: “I don’t have enough time”. We have enough time if we decide that something is really important.
It annoys me when people use those phrases! (I don’t tell them though, lol)
Andrea@WellnessNotes saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:00 am
I think thinking of things as priorities vs. not having time is a great idea. Especially when things are busy we may feel “I don’t have time” all the time. But there are things that should be priorities. At the same time, it’s also important to acknowledge what is not.
Love the Tornado’s new school mascot!!!!!!
Danielle saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:05 am
I am not so great at saying no but I actually really love this take on it! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I’m definitely going to start working through this concept!
Fancy Nancy saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:13 am
I too don’t understand the busyness as a badge of honor but I so often feel the pressure to wear it! It is about choosing priorities…often I find it very hard at work to say no…to say my family is my priority until the past few years. I have said no to job opportunities and such and have been honest about my reasons…I will only have little children for a short time and I DO NOT want to miss it! It feels good to honor my priorities instead of piling more on so that I can wear a badge!
Jackie saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:14 am
I LOVE this! Absolutely love it.
I agree too, we’re all busy but what we really need to do is decide what is a priority in our lives and what isn’t at the moment.
Laura @ Mommy Run Fast saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:20 am
I haven’t thought about my “no” in this way but you’re absolutely right- it’s partly that I am busy, but usually more that it is not a priority. I like reframing it this way- I still want to keep practicing my no (something I’m not always good at) but be aware when something is a priority as well.
Heathers Looking Glass saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:34 am
I am terrible about putting too much on my plate and then it all comes crashing down. Need to repriotirize for the week!
Christine @ Love, Life, Surf saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:39 am
I love this shift in phrasing because it really does help to put things in perspective. I’ve thought about this a lot but haven’t really been good about putting it into practice, I think because it does feel borderline rude but maybe I just need to get over that. And the phrase and imagery of being in a corner? Yes. All the time.
Jamie @ Rise.Run.Mom.Repeat. saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:50 am
Yes, yes, yes! Lately, I’ve been “too busy” for housework. I’ve been trying to get in long runs and yoga classes when the little ladies are at school so I don’t have to impose on my husband’s time at home so much. Because of that, my house is turning into a shithole and it’s stressing us both out.
I was going to go to a yoga class this morning after preschool drop off, but a friend asked if I could watch her little boy. For a second I was disappointed to miss yoga but I think this was exactly what I needed. A morning at home to get some cleaning and organizing done…well, after I’m done reading your blog, that is. 😉
Tamara saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:55 am
Love the re-frame.
And our culture glorifies busy-ness; the busier we are, the more important we must be.
I’ve used this re-frame often with clients. Too busy to exercise? Nope, I don’t buy it. What they’re really saying is it’s not a priority. My job is to convince them that it is 🙂
misszippy1 saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 6:56 am
Ok–absolutely loving that you are being the tiger! So awesome. And as I read this, I was picturing myself using that phrase and I KNOW I would have a hard time saying it. But I like it. And may try it out soon…will keep you posted!
Kim saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 7:15 am
I love that approach and am using it starting today. I’ve been guilty of saying “I’m too busy” lately but I know I’m not even 1/2 as busy as lots of people. Now, I realize that what I mean is it isn’t a priority right now.
And – I love your new gig!!! So exciting!!! Have fun.
Also love the picture of the Tornado with the mascot head on.
Megan @mnmspecial saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 7:30 am
How cool for school. Thanks. I Need this mentality with 4 kids & everything Happening.
KCLAnderson (Karen) saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 8:34 am
For me it’s gotten to the point that saying “no” without much (or any) explanation comes pretty easily. It’s so freeing not to lie! I look at it this way: I get to be a role model for my friends/family/acquaintances who would like to say no with the same panache 🙂
Kerri O saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 8:45 am
OK, the mascot gig is awesome!
I’ve gotten very good at defining my priorities to myself. When I get a request I compare it with these priorities. Then respond from there. It helps me a lot. Because I of course WANT to say yes to everything, but I don’t want to be crazy-stressed-overstretched mama. Also, lately I think a lot of people think that I’m not busy for some reason, LOL.
I often say I’d love to, but I’m swamped. Or I’m swamped, but I could…
Elle saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 8:59 am
I cannot imagine telling someone that something they want me to do is NOT a priority right now. To me it sounds kinda harsh and I think most of my family and friends think I am too honest and straightforward already! haha
I have started say NO thank you, and not offering a reason.
Deb Roby saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:01 am
Ah, this is my decade for saying YES! YES! YES!
But then I’m rarely too busy for that to be a problem. Instead it’s all too rare that the chance to say YES! comes about!
Bonnie saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:08 am
This is great! It’s so true – it’s not that we’re too busy but that we won’t make time for certain things…not an option. Thanks for this reminder today; I am going to rethink today’s priorities before I get off to train some clients.
Oh – and I LOVE that head and that you’re the mascot!! Too crazy and fun! 😀
Ashley M saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:33 am
I like this.. I’m going to have to ponder it and the ways it will fit into my life, but I like it.
quix saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 10:23 am
HOW COOL IS THAT! You rock, and the pictures made me giggle.
I sometimes will get overwhelmed with social commitments, I try to make sure that I say NO often enough to get some me time. One new thing that happened earlier this year is that I set so many personal goals, I got stressed out because I had no social time AND no free time. I’ve learned that there is a balance, and part of that balance is time to veg out in front of the computer and/or TV not being productive.
Becca saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 11:11 am
I love this – It’s an important thing to say. People need to know (yourself included) that you could make the time, but are choosing to not do that right now. Not everything is a priority.
Shop with Me Mama saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 11:16 am
I say no now, when I use to say yes to everything. I think with age I am learning that I don’t have to do it all! Great post!
Yum Yucky saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 11:19 am
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!! Sorry. I’m too busy laughing at the pics.
mimi saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 11:26 am
Haven’t done this, will consider it. It sounds like a wise idea.
lindsay saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm
yes, i have learned that. well, i am still trying to embrace it but it’s a much better philosophy for me (us) right now. Or FOREVER! No is more than okay.
Brittany @ Delights and Delectables saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm
I so needed to read this today! It is very true. I have been saying no way too much lately. Right now, I’m entering a season of yes- I need to make room!
Angela saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm
For the longest time I struggled with saying no, then I graduated to saying no and being terribly apologetic about it. Now I can just say no and it feels good. If I said yes to everything, nothing would receive my full attention and that’s not fair to anyone.
Terry Packer saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm
Love the cougar costume! It’s really hard to say no to people when you just want to help out any way you can, but you have to know your limits.
Jenny saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm
I need to learn this because I am always going 1000 miles per hour and I’m really not that busy.
Beeb saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm
I agree, although if I phrased it as “Priority” I know it would go over like a lead balloon, LOL. My difficulty is that people often get their feelings hurt if I can’t participate in something, no matter how nicely I say it or what other unavoidable things I have going on. I’ve spent a lot of years doing way more than I can to try and avoid those hurt feelings, and eventually have just had to start giving simple “I’m sorry, I can’t” explanations no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.
The other thing I’ve noticed about the cult of busyness is that having any priorities above work or tasks is frowned on severely. I know if someone was asking me for a favor or to hang out and I said, “I’m sorry, it’s not a priority because I’m meditating and playing that evening” (Two things on your list that I love!), they’d instantly say, “WELL, you have time then!!”. Even when I’m not specific, I have people try to convince me that SURELY I can squeeze in time for them. Heck, even when I’m working on a Monday morning and TELL someone that I’m working and can’t do XYZ (multiple times), they’ll still come over unannounced anyway and expect me to doit. So how do you deal with this? Because I love your attitude here! (PS, I probably sound like a big meanie, but I love the people in my life and have devoted a lot of time to helping/doing favors/hanging out over the years…which is part of why I seem to have this problem now)
WOW that was a long comment, sorry! Obviously this topic strikes a nerve with me, haha!
Roz@weightingfor50 saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm
Love this, and lovin’ the cougar head!!!
Kara saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Hm. There are a lot of responses already, so I don’t know if this will get read or not. 🙂 But I’m mouthy, so I’m gonna post anyway.
I think saying “it/you’re not a priority for me” is beyond rude. I get the concept behind it, but I find it offensive.
My preferred method of thinking about it (and explaining it to other people) is to say something like “oh I’d love to be involved in that, but right now it’s something that doesn’t fit into my schedule/calendar/month/period of choice”.
I don’t think there’s any need to tell people that they (or their projects) are not your priority unless you really want them out of your life.
It’s like the whole concept of “white lies”. You can say to yourself (in your head) “yes those jeans make your butt huge” but when you say it to your friend you say “I think you have more flattering jeans – you don’t need these.”
It’s the difference between being brutally and selfishly honest and being kind while still drawing boundaries.
Sagan saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm
So interesting you should post this now. It reminds me of this epiphany I had yesterday afternoon, when I suddenly realized that I really ENJOY doing everything I’m doing, and while it’s “busy” and there’s a lot going on, they’re all priorities and I’M the one who made them priorities and I’m GLAD I’ve made them priorities.
It’s so important that we take the time to stop. reflect. appreciate.
Carrie with Children saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm
I have such a hard time telling people no when it comes to opportunities, then I beat myself up inside when I’m swamped and stretched to the limit.
I need to make myself a priority at times too!
Chasing Joy saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm
I think telling someone that something is not a priority can make them feel as though you are saying they are not a priority. That’s why saying I’m too busy because it sends a message of I really want to do what you are asking but time just does not allow it.
I do use the busy excuse a lot. I do need to be more honest about why I don’t want to do something and find a way to communicate that, that is comfortable.
Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm
I’m not sure what I think is either I’m too busy or it’s not a priority, but it’s probably something similar minded. It’s all a learning process.
LOL to the mascot!
Kierston @candyfit saysSeptember 24, 2013 at 5:07 am
I’ve always been a yes’er and not a no’er. A couple of years ago I met someone who would teach me a valuable lesson. One that would involve putting me first and allowing myself to say no without feeling guilty for it. I’ve only said the priority sentence to myself but have not practised saying it to others…
Jenny saysSeptember 24, 2013 at 7:47 am
Holy guns lady!!!!!! Love it!
I don’t enjoy that in the corner feeling at all! I think I perhaps say “no” a little too much though! Great read. Love your stories.
Taylor @ LiftingRevolution saysSeptember 24, 2013 at 9:40 am
Yes, I have started to do the same thing. Life is exhausting and choosing what to say yes and no to can be tough. I’ve finally started to look at it and ask “do I want to make this a priority?” If yes then I’m all in. If no, I don’t feel bad.
Gaby - Fitness Trainer Toronto saysSeptember 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm
I have lots of priorities too and more often, it is draining my energy and my sanity. But like you, I have started to disregard the less important so that I will have more time to the things that really matter. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 😀
Bonnie saysSeptember 25, 2013 at 6:38 am
PS – I told our small group from church last night about the “it’s not a priority” thing and it really re-framed for us all what we mean when we’re talking to people…We were discussing how to be intentional with others in our lives and we realized often not giving people is essentially saying they aren’t a priority…changes things! Thanks for this reminder! (and fun to say, “Well one of my blends said yesterday that…” and “Maybe I’ll meet her soon face to face!” – they get a kick out of my “blends” and blog talk.) 😀
Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana saysSeptember 25, 2013 at 7:21 am
How do you fit in all that play??? Lol, well, now that I’m my own boss I consider work play… Working my arse off is play, working out is play (a lot of it’s the right attitude too). Love “it’s not a priority right now.” I get tired of everyone being too busy for me ;).
Melaine saysSeptember 26, 2013 at 3:21 am
Heather (Where's the Beach) saysSeptember 27, 2013 at 6:20 am
Oh wow, I really needed this little slap in the face. New perspective!
Charlotte Hilton Andersen saysOctober 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm
Being a pretty intense introvert, learning to say no and to honor my priorities is important to both my physical and mental health. You can watch me unravel when I’m in over my head and the worst part is that I usually manage to hold it together for my public obligations and then fall apart on my family. Oops. It’s been essential for me to build in “rest days” – if I’ve got a a lot of busyness one day then the next day I need to plan almost nothing. It sounds lame but I literally need to sit in a dark, quiet corner for a significant amount of time. Oh wait, I’m meditating! Let’s call it that;)
Michelle saysOctober 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm
I’m with many of these other posters. Have to make it a priority or it doesn’t happen. Hopefully this is the kick in the b*tt I need!
Amy@spotonwellness saysOctober 3, 2013 at 6:24 am
Wow! I reaaaaallly love this post! I am always trying to “figure out” and line up my priorities… but this post makes me think of opportunities and experiences in a whole new way. I do have a hard time saying no, but mostly to myself! I am going to start using your tips to help me focus and prioritize today! Thanks!