Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Overcommitted:Turning Yes into No

Is your only free time on Sunday between 4 and 4.30pm?
Do you find “No” a dirty word? 
Do you stack multiple dinners in one evening so as to see everyone?
You may be insane, but you are not alone…


I got Smoggy's calendar here in the U.S .A!  :Dphoto © 2006 Ruby Ran | more info (via: Wylio)
“When can we do dinner?”

came the question from someone trying to be patient with me.

I glanced at my calendar.  For the next two weeks I was only free between the dark hours of midnight and 5am…..on Tuesdays.

Before I answered ‘March,’ I analyzed my engagements see if I could perhaps double stack, fitting in two dinners into an evening.  I hated saying ‘no’ more than I hated getting fat.

Everyone has times when they over commit.  Some people are repeat offenders, stuck in a ridiculous dance to juggle their multiple air born balls.  I am currently among the ridiculous.  Like many women, I try to please everyone, try to be everything, and I’d rather turn insomniac than say no.  Although my 2011 goal was to focus on writing, I found myself taking on too many clients, offering to cook too many dinners, and RSVPing to too many events and panels.  I say yes to anyone that asks me for something. 

My refusal to say nay makes me overwhelmed to the point of planning a mass cancelation on my life.  Tired of juggling, I start scanning vacation properties and dream of relocating to a cottage in Bali to do nothing but stare at the ocean and write haikus.  I am not quite to that breaking point yet, but have filled my calendar with so many events that it looks obese.  If I am going to stay in San Francisco, it’s time for an activity diet.

The Overcommitted Profile

In a city of overachievers I am not the only one that carves out my day in half hour sections.  I spoke with many other overcommitted men and women.   Although they come in different flavors they all share two similar traits: 

  1. They are jacks of all trades, involved in a mismatch of activities.  Focus is key, but so hard to manage when every new opportunity seems exciting.
  2. They get piss drunk on the kool-aid of the city’s doers.  Here in the San Francisco Bay area, everyone is doing something to save the world, change the world, run the world, or make a lot of worldly money.  Someone has spiked the water system and we are all intoxicated on ideas, events and races.  Forgetting to “be true to ourselves”  we compete with everyone around us, even if they are running a different race than us.

The 90 Minute Stand

Sadly, as we try to appease all of our interests, we have no time left for ourselves. Friendships and romance take the back burner.

 My friend Cecelia complained about finding time to fit in a new love interest.  “It’s just so frustrating. He can only get together on Tuesday I cannot do Tuesday because that’s the night I have my language class and networking social.  Plus I get up early on Wednesday morning for my long run.”

Of course, Cecelia still couldn’t say ‘no’ completely and ended up coordinating a Sunday afternoon rendezvous with her naked friend between the hours of 2.30 and 4 pm.  Isn’t there something wrong with us if we are now planning our love affairs in 90 minute increments?  An afternoon delight may be nice, but what happened to the weekends when you stayed in bed all day?  Not that I’m an advocate of the practice, but I am slightly alarmed that we don’t even have time for a full one night stand anymore.

My friend Lila was offered a last minute opportunity to go Sonoma with a new group of friends.  “I cannot,” she wistfully said.  “I have tickets to the charity event, a tennis match, and a business lunch on Saturday.”  A business lunch on Saturday?   The mad planning needs to stop and spontaneity needs to be resurrected.

When to Say No

To bring back opportunity in our life, we need to start saying the “N” word.  But how do we utter the word that is considered far fouler than any of the four lettered variety?  We need to stay focused and we need to listen to intuition.

Below is a starter list of easy reasons to test out no. 

Say NO to:

  1. People that you generally dislike, mistrust, or feel they are trying to ‘get something’ from you.  (i.e. what’s inside your pants).  I once met someone to assist with revenue projections and he turned the whole thing into a romantic date that I had to feign an illness to get out of. 
  2. Events that you are only going to because of FOMO (fear of missing out), not because you really want to.  If you would rather stay in your PJs at home, then do.  Not only will this give you precious time to recharge, but it will also leave room for spontaneity.
  3. Activities that don’t help you along your annual goals (note: you must first make annual goals). We get pulled in so many directions and must continually reassess why we are doing “this.”  For example, I probably didn’t need to go to a dessert tasting event last night.  I should have written a book chapter as per my 2011 goal plan.
  4. Plans that require eating two dinners in one evening.  (or two desserts).
  5. Anything that overloads your calendar to the creaking, breaking, “I must to to Bali” point.  Don’t take on more before you unload.  When I go shopping for a new outfit, I only allow myself to buy it if I commit to donating an old item to charity.  It’s time to treat my calendar like my closet-consistently spaced.

 After a while, saying no will be refreshing.  Your waistline, your friends, and your mind will thank you.  And then you can start saying yes to things like….weekends in bed.

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