Happy Monday everybody! I've been mulling over what I wanted to write about today, and because I can't be anything but honest, I'm just going to dive right into the hard lesson I'm learning right now. It involves saying a simple, two-letter word. NO.

Though it's one of the first words we learn as a child, ironically "no" is one of the hardest words for us to use as adults. Tell someone no, and you'll usually get a reaction that ranges from disappointment to flat-out hostility. It's no wonder that we get in the habit of avoiding the word. And yet saying no - and learning to guard our time - is crucial for all aspects of life, from career success to family life to emotional and spiritual well-being.

As a life-long people-pleaser, "yes" has been my go-to word, whether it's dropping what I'm doing (in the midst of a deadline) to talk to a hurting friend, leading a group at church, catering a friend's last-minute party (for free), meeting someone for coffee to give career advice, or agreeing to write an article that I don't really have time to do. But all of these are really good things, so of course I should say yes, right??

The problem with saying yes indiscriminately is that eventually, there just aren't enough hours in the day. In the past, I'd just push through and steal time from sleep, creative projects, and exercise. Which meant that I'd be running on fumes just to make sure everyone else was happy and cared for. But guess what? It's impossible to please everyone, and equally impossible for me to meet all the needs I encounter. And trying to do the impossible just makes me exhausted. And resentful.


Once I got married, I learned the hard way that saying yes to everyone else essentially meant saying no to Brandon. He'd get my leftovers after I'd given to everyone else - definitely not ideal for marriage! My logic was: Brandon would forgive me, but I wasn't sure that other people would. Over time, I've slowly learned to create boundaries to make time for us. And since I've started The Cookbook Diaries, I've had to create even more boundaries, so I can focus on building something I really believe in. The process has been extremely difficult, but hugely rewarding. For the first time ever, I'm learning that I have choices when it comes to my time.

Brandon shared a quote recently from Warren Buffett that shocked me: "The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything." My first reaction was: 'But doesn't that make them selfish??' And my second reaction was: 'that just seems scary.' I've always had a fear of missing out, and I've been afraid that saying no would push away friendships and career opportunities.

What I'm learning, though, is that saying 'no' brings your priorities into focus. By respecting my own limitations (be it time, finances, energy, or emotional capacity), I can actually give more to the people or projects I really want to focus on. I may not be able to have coffee with 10 people per week, but if I meet with one or two, I can be really present and engaged. And rather than giving out of a place of guilt and exhaustion, I can give out of a reserve of love and strength.


I have a confession: saying no is still not easy for me. Right now I have a list of emails that I have flagged to respond to, but I haven't written back because I'm afraid to say no. Each of them involves a very cool opportunity that in theory I'd LOVE to do (be it traveling or cooking or writing or hosting an event), but I just don't have the margin in my schedule right now. My fear of disappointing others and my fear of missing out leaves me paralyzed, so I just haven't responded. But, in the spirit of this post, I am committing to you all that I'm going to be courageous and respond to these emails. I'm going to be gracious, but honest. Sure I may disappoint a few people, but I've got to stay true to my priorities right now.

I'd love to hear from you. Is saying 'no' something that's difficult for you? Do you feel guilty? If saying 'no' and setting boundaries with your time is easy for you, what are some of your tips? I'd love to learn from you!!

Stay tuned later this week for Part II: Creating Space.

(Photos by Nate Poekert.)