There is a saying we teach what it is we need to learn. And there is a lesson I’m still learning. I want to talk about this lesson today. Because I suspect I’m not the only one who keeps saying yes when they should be saying no.
Last week I was talking to my boss on the phone. The physiotherapy clinic I work for have just rebranded. They’ve launched a new website. And added Instagram to their social media marketing strategy. The website hadn’t had any SEO added so it wasn’t showing up in Google searches. And their Instagram page wasn’t doing as well as they liked. No-one else in the company knew about these things. He knew I did. He asked if I could help them out. I said yes. He asked if I could meet him to talk about them. I said yes.
Last Friday morning before he left for work my fiancé asked what I was doing that day. I said I was going into work to have a meeting with my boss about their new website and their social media marketing. He gave me a look. I knew what that look meant.
Friday is my one day a week where I do my own creative work. Like my fiancé says, it’s the one day I get to do my own work without him being home to bug me. And I’d just agreed to give up my own time for someone else. Again. He asked whether I thought my boss would have agreed to meet on one of his days off. We both knew the answer to that without it having to be said out loud. It’s not my bosses fault at all. It was mine. I’d said yes. I’d given up my time. He’d simply asked what day I was free to catch up and I’d said Friday.
I was due to meet my boss in the afternoon and all morning I felt resentful. I thought about rescheduling but decided to keep the appointment. I wanted to remember that feeling of resentment. I don’t actually know if it was resentment as such. Probably more a feeling of being pissed off with myself. Because I had done it again. I had valued other people’s time above my own. And by saying yes to someone else I’d said no to me.
That’s the problem with saying yes to others. It takes away something from us. And that thing is usually time. Time is precious. But all too often we are willing to give it away for free. And I bet it makes you feel as bad when you do it, as it made me feel that day.
The real question we need to ask ourselves is why we say yes. Why do we continue to value others time ahead of our own?
Is it because we want to be seen as a good employee, friend, partner, mother, daughter or sister?
Is it because we want to feel valued?
Is it because we want people to like us?
Is it because we have always said yes, and we have no idea how to say no?
The list of questions is endless.
I have also been thinking this week about how much of my time is spent doing things for free. Out of the 168 hours in a week I get paid for 24 of them. Only 24 hours of my time has a monetary value.
Of course I don’t expect to get paid to do things like sleep, walk my dogs and spend time with my fiancé. Or any of those other ‘just life’ things. But it’s interesting how much of my time I do give away for free. Whether it’s time spent writing blog posts and newsletters. Or the time where people ask if I can look over an article they’ve written. Or even the ‘can you just pick this up for me on your way home’ time. All that I’m happy to do, but I’ve realised my default answer is ‘yes’.
All those little 15 minute jobs add up over a week. What I can’t do is keep complaining I don’t have enough time to do ‘my stuff’ if I continue to keep saying yes.
So what happened during the meeting with my boss? We talked about how I could help. And we talked about how my time wasn’t free. We came to an agreement. I spoke up and valued my time.
My fiancé reminds me constantly that I need to value my time. He’s a wise man my shaven-headed, tattooed builder.