We entrepreneurs are crazy busy. Between keeping our business going, spending time with family and friends, and all the other stuff we have to do just to keep life going, we’ve got a lot on our plates.

Passion driven-entrepreneurs are can-do people, we love helping out and getting something done. This is such an important asset, but it can also be a liability. Saying “Yes” to everything can leave you mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.

Identify your Priorities

If you’ve got too many things on your plate, which you probably do, it’s time to sit down and prioritize. What are the most important things to you right now? What goals are you heading towards? Which relationships are the most life-giving to you? This isn’t about playing favorites or abandoning plans, it’s about doing an internal check-in with yourself. Be honest with yourself: what do you really want to get out of the next few weeks, months, years?

Protect your Priorities

Once you know what your goals and priorities are, it’s easier to decide what to say “Yes” to and what to politely decline. The truth is, we just don’t have time for everything. So before you agree to host a party, or take on an extra project, or coach a soccer team, think about where this commitment fits in with your goals. Will it help you get closer to one? Will you leave it feeling more energized, or less? What else could you be doing with this time instead?  

If you don’t plan to protect your time, you’ll never have enough of it for what matters most to you.

Learning to say “No” is an important piece of self-care. It’s not just about protecting your time, it’s also about protecting yourself. The more stressed out and distracted you are by trying to do too many things, the less energy you’ll have to spend time with the people you want to, or to work towards your other goals. Your best energy will get sucked into all the extra things you’re doing, leaving you frustrated and disappointed. By the time you get to the important stuff, you’ll be too tired to work like you want to.  

Prioritizing for the Present

Priorities can change. Right now, you can probably think of some long term priorities (health and business goals, maintaining relationships) and some shorter term goals (getting ready for a presentation, hitting a training goal).

This means that saying “No” doesn’t always mean giving that thing up forever. Sometimes it just means clearing out your calendar the month before a big event, going for a run instead of making a phone call, or telling your friends you need the night at home. You can say “No” to something for a night or a week or a season. It doesn’t have to be good-bye.

Kristin Armstrong–a three time Olympic gold medalist, a mother, and an entrepreneur–told me how she manages all these pieces of her life by saying, “There are things you have to decide that are essential and things you have to remove from your life.”

So take some time this week to sit down with yourself and really think about which things in your life you’re the most excited about. What goals do you have for yourself, your business, your personal life? What are you doing that isn’t helping you reach those goals, that’s maybe even getting in the way of them?  

Saying no can be hard, but it gets easier with practice. And most importantly, saying “No” is is creating the time and space for you to say “Yes” to the things you value the most.