Just say no. Well, maybe next time....

Today, I got a harsh reality check. I need to start saying no.

For those of you who know me in person or through my blog (by the way, you can always leave comments - that way I'll know I'm not writing into a void!!), you might be laughing a bit at this revelation. Of course, Julie, you're probably thinking. That's a lesson you should have learned a LONG time ago. In theory, I totally get it. It's not possible to do everything. Yet whenever I feel like saying no, I picture something like this happening....

Oh, I don't have a complex that I'm so important that everyone needs me. That's not it. How do I say this without sounding holier than thou? It's just that I take other people's stuff and put it directly on my own plate. A person whom I have barely met needs help finding a mentor teacher for student teaching? Suddenly it's my problem. A former colleague needs help putting together a teaching unit? All me. A co-worker doesn't have access to a car and needs to lug around something heavy? My issue. (Even though I don't actually own a car). Need help moving? Sure, although I have two formerly broken wrists. Editing a paper? Working on a resume? Feeding your cat? Cooking vegan muffins for the office? I'm your girl. Once I typed up my great great aunt's memoirs, and then, when the file was deleted from my computer I pulled an all-nighter re-typing it as if it would be the end of the world if I didn't get it done at that exact moment. I actually broke one of my wrists cleaning out my classroom for another teacher, and I found out after injuring myself that she actually didn't want me to clean it. Talk about being a YES person at a sometimes high cost.

It's not that I don't want to do any of this. In fact, I LOVE helping people out. Whenever I think about saying "no", my brain is like....


I'm really good at telling other people to say no. I make my loved ones leave the office when it gets too late (sometimes I have to use my teacher voice to do it!). I tell people to stop grading and go to bed. I counsel others to delegate and take time to relax.

Yet with myself, all I want to do is say YES. Like I said, I love to help! But lately my to-do list has been growing at an alarming rate. I leave every work meeting with 10 more things to do and then go onto my next meeting before I have time to do anything. Yikes. Today, at the moment in which I was standing in the metaphorical quicksand of my pile of responsibilities, I got the reality check. My actual workload will never decrease. I'm letting myself get involved with solving problems that aren't mine to solve. I'll burn out pretty quickly at this rate...and I just started two months ago.

If you want the honest truth, one of the main reasons I left teaching was because I was burnt out. Teaching is a really tough position from which to say no. Every time I would think about ditching or delegating something, my mind would picture the effects on the children as something like this:
I'm still involved in education, so I'm well aware that every decision I make will affect kids at some point. Yet I won't be able to do much more from such a sleep-deprived state.

So, my firm resolve is to say "no" (really, to delegate - I can't actually ignore a need) at least one time per day. Are you guys going to hold me to it? Perhaps, comment on the blog? (Can you tell that I would love some comments?). I might need some support, and if you have the same problem, maybe we can support each other. Otherwise, I'll probably end up doing something like this: