5 Ways To Say No To Over-Commitment

I don't know about you, but saying no to things is a real struggle to me. I want to be helpful. I want to participate. I don't want to disappoint. Plus, FOMO (fear of missing out) is real! Especially when face to face, saying no can be hard. 

Have you ever wanted to say no to something, but were afaid to hurt feeling, or look bad?  Check out these strategies to help you say no.   

However, in order to reach our goals, and devote time to ourselves and our priorities, saying no is a must. You can't work full time, take care of your kids, volunteer at every function, spend time on self care, attend every event, and achieve your life goals and aspirations. There are only so many hours in the day.  Therefore, saying no is a necessity. 

The following are different strategies you can use to say no to over-commitment.  These will allow you to politely and diplomatically bow out of things you just don't have time to do or just don't want to do. You can pick and choose which strategies work best for you.  

Defer and Delay

This is a strategy best used when you are at a meeting or event where they are looking for volunteers for a future event.  Often times when asked face to face to participate in or commit to something, we have a hard time saying no.  We feel like we need an excuse or reason why we can't do the thing.  We also don't want to lie or make something up. Maintaining a lie is far too much work.  

Instead, defer your answer.  Say that you have to check your calendar or speak with your significant other. You can say something like, "I know I already have an event in September that I committed to. Let me check my calendar when I get home and I will let you know."  

Then when you get home actually email or text the person back and state that you can't attend the event or volunteer, or whatever the situation is. This step is super important and should not be forgotten.  You should put a reminder in your phone if you have to in order to make sure you don't forget to give an answer.  You don't want to appear flaky. 

This strategy allows you to show interest in the event or commitment with out having to actually commit. Follow through is key. 

Say no to over-commitment


This is a good strategy when the task you are being asked to do requires a skill or a specific availability.  When asked to bake for a bake sale, indicate that you are not the most skilled around the kitchen and nobody likes burnt cookies. Then mention that Sophie's mom might be a good person to ask since she recently told you how much she loves baking. 

The key here is to only suggest people who you think would actually be willing and able to fulfill the need. Don't just throw around names willy-nilly to get out of things. You want the person you suggest to appreciate the suggestion, not feel trapped. 

Propose Something Else

Related to the prior strategy, this one involves suggesting a different task instead of a different person.  Sometimes we are asked to perform a specific task related to a project or an event that we know will suck the life out of us. 

I am super good at budgets, spreadsheet, organization and planning. I am not as much a conversation starter, hostess type. So if someone asked me to work the welcome table at a charity event, I would definitely not want to do that.  Instead I might offer to do the budgeting or create all the sign in sheets and forms. 

These kinds of tasks I find easy and can perform quickly. Thus, I won't mind assisting in that way.  Its a win for everyone since I can complete the tasks that I would enjoy and I can complete efficiently and they can find a greeter who is far more outgoing and welcoming.  

say no to over-commitment

Ask For Prioritization

This one is especially helpful at work.  Let's say you are at work and your boss asks you to complete a task that you aren't really enthused about. For example, they might want you to supervise the summer intern or take over a tedious project. 

Saying no to your boss can be hard and often not recommended.  Instead explain to your boss what is currently on your plate and state that this new project will take you away from your other tasks.  Ask that your boss let you know what to prioritize.  

You can say, "Wow, that's an interesting project. I'm really busy with the ABC assignment right now, so let me know if you want me to re-prioritize." This puts the ball back in your boss's court without you actually having to say no.  

However, it's important to be aware that they may prioritize the thing you don't want to do.  

Thank Them

If you have to just say no, you can lessen the blow with a simple thank you.  Show that you appreciate being thought of, but just can't commit at this time. 

You can say, "Thank you for thinking of me for this position, I really appreciate your confidence in me.  Unfortunately, I am not able to commit to that project at this time." 

In general, the key is saying no without a specific excuse.  For example, don't say I can't because I don't have someone to watch the kids. The kind-hearted asker may volunteer a solution i.e. offer their teen as a babysitter. If you don't want to commit to something, then just saying no with out an excuse is generally the best policy.  

Being able to say no to things that take you away from your goals and priorities is essential to living a life you love.  The goal you are focusing on doesn't have to be some crazy pie in the sky aspiration, although it can be.  If your goal is to spend 1 hour a week pampering yourself and some project is going to take you away from that, it's A-OK to just say no. 

How have you said no to over-commitment in the past?  Let me know in the comments. 



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