I’ve written three, totally different newsletter drafts over the past week. But when I got up this morning, I felt compelled to share the most powerful word in my personal and professional arsenal right now.


Why am I writing about the power of saying “no” when I could be writing about links or content or writing yet another piece of Peloton marketing brilliance?

Because many of you are struggling. 

As we’ve discussed before, you’re probably not working at peak efficiency — no matter how much self care you’re able to enjoy (assuming you’re able to enjoy any right now.) There’s too much big stuff going on in the world, and there’s been zero psychological downtime from it all.

Things feel hard because they are hard. It’s not just you.

On top of everything else, it’s easy to let our personal boundaries get squishy when life gets stressful.

For some of us (typically women, but not always,) it’s easier to go along and acquiesce. Sure, we’ll take care of client care, kid care, elder care, spouse care, and making sure the family life runs smoothly.

After all, it needs to get done, right? We can sleep later.

In the case of freelancing, the refusal to say “no” can create some very unbalanced client relationships. Before you know it, you’re fixing content for free, lowering your rates, and resenting your client for putting you in that position…

(When, let’s face it, you did it to yourself.)

It turns into a slippery slope, fast.

And that’s because saying “no” feels even more difficult right now.

Which makes saying “no” that much more important to your well-being.

This is something I’m struggling with myself. Normally, I am an SEO Writing Superwoman, able to write long-form articles in a single sitting.

Now? Not so much. I get tired faster. It’s easier for me to become overwhelmed, especially when I’m not tracking my time, or I’m spending too much time clearing emails. 

I have my Superwoman moments, but then I need a longer recovery time than normal. 

That’s OK. I get it. 

But even I’ve fallen prey to saying, “Sure, I can help,” because helping makes me feel good. I want to make others’ lives easier. And, dammit, it feels like something I can do and control during an uncontrollable time.

I have to remember that making other people’s lives easier may make my life harder. And that trade-off may not be possible right now.

That’s why I’ve been embracing the word “no” to anything that’s not mission-critical to my work or happiness.

For instance…

“No, I can’t jump on a Zoom call with you right now.”

“No, I can’t participate in your guest expert roundup.”

“No, I can’t turn this 1,500-word article around by tomorrow.”

“No, I can’t do that for free. Even if it’s a great cause. Even if I’ve helped you before.”

“No, although I would normally love to participate in X, this time, I have to pass.”

(Did you feel a combination of freaked-out and free when you read the word “no”? Then saying “no” is exactly what you need.)

Do I love saying “no”? Heck no. It’s weird, especially when it’s something that I’d love to do. But, I know the Heather-cost would be huge. I don’t have that kind of bandwidth right now.

Plus, every time I say “no,” I feel a little more in control of my time.

You know that feeling when a client cancels, and suddenly you have “free time” that you didn’t expect?

That’s how I feel. It’s freeing.

And you can feel free, too.

This week, say “no” to one thing that doesn’t serve you. Then, use that found time to do something good for yourself. Read a book. Stare out the window. Take a socially-distanced walk with a friend.

Every time you say “no” to something that doesn’t serve you, you’re saying “yes” to your well-being and creativity. You’re freeing up that brain space for something bigger and better.

After all, don’t we all need a little more brain space right now?

What do you think?

When’s the last time you’ve said “no”? How did it feel?  Leave a comment and let me know.