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Taming the Creep.


I thought I had my butt firmly in my seat on the “No Train.”

I’ve written about saying no a bunch of times. I’ve written about saying no a bunch of times (here, here, and here, for example.) I’ve heard other people say it a gagillion times. I thought I had it down.

But I realized that other people’s priorities had begun to creep onto my calendar, and they were edging my priorities out.

It’s kind of like when you put on a pair of underwear that doesn’t fit properly. You know the ones. They’re so cute so you don’t throw them away, even though the last time you wore them they bugged you all day. You put them on and get them all adjusted and all is well. And then after about 20 minutes of going about your day, they’re creeping into crevices they don’t belong in. If you don’t keep pulling at them you end up with the queen of wedgies. It’s massively uncomfortable, not to mention unattractive. (Hello, strange panty lines!)

Your time is the same.

If you don’t remain diligent, stuff that is not your priority creeps in.

You say yes to heading up that committee at your kids’ school because you think, “Oh, this is no big deal. It will be less than an hour a week!” But then you find yourself nose-deep in the papier-mâché centerpiece for a fundraiser that you’ve been working on for the past four hours. And the article you’ve been wanting to finish all week is nowhere near complete. This was not what you said yes to!

You tell an old colleague that you’ll go to lunch with her and look over her resume since she’s switching industries and wants to “pick your brain” about your experience. (PSA: Stop asking people to pick their brains. The information in their brains got there because they invested a lot of time, effort, and money. They don’t want it picked at.) Three hours later, you’re exhausted. You drive home feeling irritated that now you don’t have time for a workout, and rather than cooking the healthy meal you’d planned, you’re going to have to get takeout (again).

The yes’s seem harmless. And some genuinely are.

But when you say yes to four things that take a “mere” 45 minutes, that becomes more than 3 hours because of the prep time, the time itself, and then the time it takes to get refocused on your own priorities once you’re done.

The things you say yes to because you think they’re no big deal often become a much bigger deal than you thought.

Being discerning about what you say yes to – and making those yes’s really count – is the goal.

Committing to saying no more so that you can free up your time and energy for your priorities one time is not enough. You must remain ever-vigilant if you want to tame the creep.

No matter who you are, your time is valuable. {Tweet it!} No matter who you are-Tweet

The people who are able to make the biggest impact are able to do so because they know how to protect their time by saying no.

Yes, you will disappoint people.

Yes, some people will judge you for thinking you’re all that or too good for them. (But you know what? That’s going to happen anyway.)

Yes, it may feel uncomfortable.

But it’s better than letting someone else’s priorities run your life.


Over to you:

How do you tame the creep of other people’s agendas ending up all over your calendar? Where do you get stuck when it comes to saying no? Leave a comment below and let me know!


P.S.  Just this week I’ve had several friends with close family members receive cancer diagnosis. I’ve cried with them and offered my love and prayers. I can only imagine how overwhelming and scary it must feel as a loved one of a cancer patient, or as an actual patient.

That’s why I’m so excited to share the work of my friend Dr. Kelly Turner with you. She did her doctorate work studying cases of spontaneous remission in cancer patients. She wrote a NY Times Bestselling book called Radical Remission sharing the results of her work.

Now she has a course where you can learn the 9 Healing Factors she found in her groundbreaking research of those who overcame cancer against all odds. The course is available until Friday, April 1st for a special discount for our community. Click here to learn more. Please pass this information along to anyone you know who it could make a difference for.



  • Oh my gosh! Yes!! I was just thinking this to myself yesterday.

    I feel with every new stage of my life and business I have to amp up my ability to exercise the right to say no. Somewhere along the lines ‘a new stage’ makes me almost always default into the yes category. Then the overwhelm hits and then I have to backtrack and go back and say no after I said yes.

    Thank you for this reminder!

  • Hi yes, your correct, my time is important. I was watching Trump last night, he was going on how others treated him unfairly? The last bf decided after a disagreement to buy a Mercedes and called it the Bitch car. Only because I wasn’t in the position to buy one as well? if the bf was dating Trump? Trump would buy a Lambergini ? Kate, when my kids fought over toys, I’d stick them on top of the fridge until they were behaving better? I might only drive a 20 year old Honda Civic? Or own a 30 year old camper I am quite prepared to move into? I’m going to take a flagging course this weekend, stop grabbing to be a life coach, or a photographer with a printer, or an artist who draws pictures from my brain to my hands? Nobody is really interested in what I do. they just tell me to not give up the day job to be creative.

  • Amanda

    I so needed this today!! Thank you! Making no a regular habit is difficult at first but when I say no more often, I feel more empowered for sure. I am choosing me which is also good for everyone else in the long run :)

  • Aimée

    Thank you for writing about this. I have been working on this ‘no’ dance as a way to say yes to my priorities more and more :)
    Yet I find i get stuck in my relationship, pretty much just during the long distance parts. (They are happening more often lately due to his dream job) In person we are balanced, but when he goes away i find myself saying no to all else, to say yes to communicating with him. I end up watching the minutes to by… Waiting..
    It is a priority to me to communicate and connect yet how do i not get attached or excited to saying the ‘hell yes’ knowing i do end up saying no to my time.. ?
    All other areas of my life seem to be getting better at this dance but this long distance thing still gives me the creeps..

    Thanks again for all you are :)

    • Kate Northrup

      Perhaps try having specifically scheduled times for communication rather than simply waiting for a call? Then you’ll know when you can absolutely say yes to other things!

  • There have been a few people lately who choose to have their feelings hurt because I said no. People’s reactions can be so shockingly surprised, and momentarily I caught myself second guessing my no. Thank you for this affirmation! What I did do was other alternative forms of assistance or presence (meditations, etc). And YES the whole picking the brain thing ….. Yuck. Pick your teeth, pick your nose, leave my brain out of it! It is another way of saying … Can I have a free session. It’s rude.

    • Kate Northrup

      Their response is really their own stuff, not yours. Don’t let it make you second guess your boundaries.

  • Kate.

    Your blog was fantastic. You know why? Because it covers something that happens to EVERYBODY! Me, for example. I work Monday through Friday 8 hours a day. I also volunteer in the afternoon and weekends. I got so carried away by wanting to do so much in the volunteer work that I felt it was a second job. The only “little detail” that it was an “unpaid” second job. It was draining my energy, taking a lot of my time, and it didn’t feel “volunteer” at all. So I decided to say “no” more frequently and it has made a huge change in my day to day qualify of life. I’ve always been a control freak and I was scared than by saying No I was going to loose control but you know what? Yes I did loose some control but I GAINED SO, SO, SO MUCH that control isn’t as valuable. Reading your blog made me feel “so on the right track”. XOXO, Laura

  • Thank you so much for this article, Kate. It’s such an important topic, and a reminder I think I need often in my life!

    After experiencing way too much burn out in my life, I’ve made a sacred vow to myself to stay in control of my own time and my calendar. It’s something I have to be really vigilant with, and I do slip, but checking in with myself regularly and the energy with which I’m doing things helps me stay on track. If I find myself being frantic, unconscious or disconnected in my dealings with people, I take a bit of time out to re-evaluate my schedule. If anything can be culled, I cull it. Sometimes that means ‘letting people down’, but I mostly find people respect my decision to self care.

    For me, It’s about staying really connected to how I’m showing up in the world, and if it’s not in the present, aligned, clear and open-hearted way I want to be, I look to carving out more time for myself so I can ground and re-centre. It’s a practice I choose each and every day.

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