Learning to Say No

noNo. Non. Ne. Nein. This can become one of the most important words we learn to use correctly. It wasn’t until recently I started to understand how important the use of no could be.

Life is fast-paced. We move quickly from work to family to extracurricular activities and back again. I have often felt the more I take on the more effective and efficient I can be. I am also a doer. I like to keep busy, to challenge myself and enjoy working with many people at different levels of engagement. My stage in life has also been influential in my ability or inability to say no. When I started grad school, I moved to a new city, knew only one person and was finding my way through a new environment. Soon after my first day of school, I became quite involved in the AIA and AIAS. I joined committees and participated in events. I said yes to every opportunity that fit within my schedule and worked towards my future goals. Many of the staff members and many of the active members of the AIA soon knew my face. Getting involved in the architecture community was one of the most valuable decisions I have ever made. I don’t regret saying yes.

As I approach one year of full time employment, I have learned that post-grad life has different priorities. For those that know me, you may still think I say yes too often. Some things will not change. Once a doer, always a doer. But I have learned to assess every commitment and make sure it is relevant to my current stage in life. I learned that some commitments were more relevant when I was in school. Not only has this assessment (and yes, relinquishing of some commitments) made room for other volunteer opportunities; I have learned what a weekend feels like! I find bliss in the freedom of coming home from work and the day being over. Sure, there are some nights that just roll into the next morning, but we all knew there would be those nights after grad school.

Not only has saying no been important to my personal development and has allowed me to spend time with friends and family, but it has also opened the door to other opportunities that I might not have been able to commit to, both at work and personally. This is not to say that dropping commitments is the way to lighten your schedule, but understanding the expected time associated with certain activities will help you to prioritize what is most important.

What I’m finding right now is how important it is to be 25 and enjoy the balance of life, work and volunteering.

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