Do you need more time to get the really important stuff done? Everyone needs to hear this message but women even more so, because their default setting is to say yes, due to their nurturing instinct. It’s okay to say no, to create boundaries, and you can do so firmly and respectfully.

We are often poor guardians of where we spend our time and energy, especially in situations where we want to be liked, are being people-pleasers, or to keep the peace, are stuck in societal expectations, or are searching for validation and affirmation from others.


It takes practice to say no to others or to say no to time-wasting habits you have fallen victim to in your life. Here are four things you can do:

  • Say no to energy vampires.

    • Surround yourself with people who add to your life instead of sucking you dry. Sometimes it pays to practice affectionate detachment to avoid being pulled into their melodramas. Guilt is a waste of your energy so let it go.
    • Create two columns by folding a piece of paper in half vertically. In the left-hand column write down names of people who you feel are the energy vampires in your life and why. On the right-hand side write down how you are going to deal with them more assertively in the future (see some of the tools below)
  • Reflect responsibility back to the person to whom it belongs.

    • If you keep rescuing people or doing their work for them, they will never learn and you will always be doing double time. This goes for both your colleagues at work and your family at home.
    • Fold a piece of paper in half vertically to create two columns. On the left-hand side write down the names of all the people you keep rescuing and what you do for them, that they should be able to do for themselves. In the right-hand column write down the action you are going to take
  • Free yourself from unnecessary obligations.

    • There is a time and place for being on committees, for example, but sometimes you need to take your time and energy back and redirect it into your relationships or your own work.
    • Turn a piece of paper sideways to create four columns. Write down the optional obligations or time commitments you have to various people or groups in the first column. In the next column give yourself a score out of 10, indicating how passionate you are about the commitment? In the third column, jot down bullet points about how this commitment adds value to your life or benefit you in terms of your goals? In the final column, what can you do to eliminate or reduce your time commitment to things that are not adding enough value to you?
  • Say no to time-sucking habits.
    • If you are watching three hours of TV a night and you reduced that by one hour a day, you would gain seven hours a week! Imagine what you could use that time for?
    • Turn a piece of paper sideways and fold to create three columns. On the left-hand side list time-sucking habits that you have been allowed to develop. In the second column write down what action you are going to take. In the third column calculate how much time you will gain and what you will direct it towards.


Saying no starts with not saying yes straight away and rather creating what I call a buffer zone to give yourself time to consider your response — to build in the option to say no. You won’t always say no but the idea is to give yourself the space to say no if you want to.

When someone asks you to commit to something, here are ways to create a buffer zone:

  • “That sounds really interesting, can I get back to you?”
  • “Thanks for the invitation but I’m not sure what’s in my diary. Let me check and get back to you.”
  • “I’d like to give this some thought and then I’ll get back to you.”

When you are in the buffer zone, considering the request:

  • Check in with your head and ask yourself, “Is this a distraction or a good use of my time and energy?”
  • Check in with your gut. I was recently listening to online entrepreneur Marie Forleo who says, “If it’s not a hell, yes, maybe it should be a hell no!”


Claim your space, your time and your energy. Remember you are exchanging these things for something else. Make sure it is a worthwhile exchange that enables you to get the really important stuff done in your life. How else will you experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment?

You can say no, and sometimes you really should, more deliberately and intentionally in every circle of your life. Saying yes is also important, and we’ll look at that in another blog.


  • Use these tools so you can focus on what matters most
  • Feel the satisfaction of getting more of the really important stuff done
  • Stop rescuing others – empower them by raising them up to do their jobs so that you can do yours
  • Marry your head with your gut feel, you won’t regret it. If something feels off, it usually is and you can normally do something about it
  • If there is someone you can’t cut out who is an energy vampire, like your boss or a colleague,  then you should look at my Courageous Communication workshop, to help you create structured and clear communication to get beyond the undercurrents or time wastage


  • Drop your guilt, it gives others, including your children and partner, power over you
  • Start getting clear on who and what is important to you. You can’t do it all or be all things to all people all of the time
  • Whatever your children are capable of doing, don’t do it for them
    • “If they can, they must” as the saying goes
    • If you keep on doing these things for them they will be dependent on you, and won’t learn the skills of doing for themselves
  • Are you expected to do things based on gender stereotypes and societal expectations? How is that working for you? If not, you can always re-negotiate and re-invent roles.
  • Have more time and energy because you have greater clarity about saying no

Much love,
Nikki Bush
Human Potential and Parenting Expert helping you to win at work and life

Enjoy the podcast of the Azania Mosaka Show on 702, where we explored how women can show up with bothe resilience and strength.