Feeling Overwhelmed and Overworked? Say Yes More Often

Noelle Ihli

How skeptical do you feel reading that headline? 

Boundaries in work-life balance, business, and life in general are a hot topic—especially for women in business. Most of that conversation revolves around the word no—which is understandable given how much most of us have on our plates. 

Say no to extra meetings. 

Say no to social obligations you don’t want to attend. 

Say no to busy work. 

Say no to situations and people that drain your creativity and resources. 

All of that sounds great in theory: a no revolution. But that was before we read The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. 

Still skeptical? Stick with us. Like Shonda says, “Everything sounds like crap until you are in the right mindset.”

The Yes Mindset

First, let’s get something straight: The Year of Yes isn’t about never saying “no.” It’s about a new mindset. A paradigm shift away from the negative, that gives top-billing to what really matters in work and life.

The Year of Yes is all about shifting the focus and priorities to what we embrace—the vital, the meaningful, the inspiring, the soul-affirming—as a way of finding more balance, meaning, and joy. 

It’s not about doing more. 

It’s about getting intentional and laying a proactive, positive foundation of what we DO want in our lives instead of a reactive focus on everything we want to keep at bay. The word “no” still plays an important supporting role, but it’s not the star of the show.

Let’s dig into the yes mindset: 

Yes to What’s Really Important

What matters most to you professionally, socially, emotionally? If everything feels like a blur, take some time to get quiet and make a short list of your top priorities at work and home. For example:

Yes to pockets of phone-free relaxation

Yes to meeting with your team members once a month, one-on-one

Yes to making regular plans for lunch with the friend you haven’t seen in ages

Yes to finally reading that book your colleagues keep talking about

Yes to taking all your vacation days this year

Yes to knocking your Q1 goals out of the park and advancing your career

Everyone’s top priorities will look a little different, and that’s okay. Identify what matters most to you, then give yourself permission to let those yeses replace and downshift the less important stuff. 

Like Shonda says, “Yes is about giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority.” 

Yes to the “Five-Mile Run”

Once you’ve identified your yeses, the next step is making time to engage with them in a meaningful way. Shonda calls this the “five-mile run.” 

The five-mile run doesn’t require running shoes, but it does require fully engaging with a particular activity for a sustained stretch of time. The goal is pretty simple: stay with it. Stay with that task, that activity, that goal, regularly for a set interval of time. This might require some no’s. If you find your focus being pulled away from your five-mile run, that’s the right time to pull out a no. Wield that word as needed! You’ll find it comes easier with your top priorities in the spotlight. 

Sustained engagement with your top priorities will build muscle memory and meaningful change. “The more often I run the five miles, the fitter I become. And the fitter I become, the easier the run begins to feel.” 

Focus on where you want to go—then set aside the time to go there. 

Yes to Staying Present

The next part of the yes mindset is staying present. This means engaging with our priorities fully, in the here and now, despite distractions or hurdles. When we say yes to staying present, we say yes to bringing our attention, energy, and focus to whatever task or relationship is in front of us (instead of getting distracted by past or future events). 

The Year of Yes challenges us to ground ourselves in the flow of the present moment, whether that’s a work project, spending time with friends or family, cultivating a new hobby, or even relaxing at the pool! Shonda decided that in order to stay present with her post-work priorities, she would set a new email signature. She says: “It now reads: ‘Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 pm or on weekends. IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.’ And then I do what seems impossible: I actually stop answering emails that arrive after seven p.m.’”

Yes to Your Worth, Abilities, and Expertise

It’s difficult to enthusiastically say yes to our top priorities if we don’t fully embody our worth, abilities, and expertise. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to accept distractions and rationalize poor outcomes. 

Claim your confidence and let it guide the way as you pursue your goals. Feeling unsure? Repeat after Shonda: “I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard.” 

What’s one way you could say yes, starting today? Tweet @bookclubdotcom with #yearofyes so we can help you stay accountable!

About the author

Noelle is a content creator, author, and editor. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two sons, and two cats. When she's not writing, she's either reading a good book or scaring herself with true-crime documentaries.

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