How to Create & Use a Yes and No List

The past couple of days we have focused on the big picture by creating a family purpose statement, and then working out how to use that to make decisions. Now, I am going to throw in another strategy that will help reduce decision fatigue and move forward with living a life you love – creating a yes and no list.

A Yes and No list is another strategy, or tool, that you can use to help reduce decision fatigue and quickly make decisions. It gives you permission to say a hard no if you know that thing is not something good for you or your family.

A Yes and No list does not give you all the answers, but instead it helps you hone in on the most important aspects of life for you and your family. When you constantly recognize that, decisions on what to do next, or whether to participate in x activity end up being much easier to make.

Yes and No List? What the heck is that?

A yes and no list is a super simple way to get your thoughts down, physically, on paper about the activities, events, sports, commitments etc. that you are willing to say yes to and you want to say no to. Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be a bit of a challenge to get everything down on paper, but that is what we are going to focus on doing today.

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Years ago I read two life-changing books. The first was called Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, and the second was The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. These two books were monumental in me recognizing where I was saying yes out of obligation, and where I ought to be spending my time. It was also around this time that I learned about the PowerSheets and all of the prep work that goes into creating a life you love.

Before I wrote my first yes and no list, I would say yes out of obligation 99% of the time. I was trying to make the lives of other people easier at the expense of my own family, and my own life. I needed something concrete that would act as giving me permission to make a different decision. Instead of saying yes to everything, I needed to become judicious and say yes to only the *right* things for me and my family.

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How to Create a Yes and No List

This is where your family purpose statement is going to come in handy. You want to start writing down the things that you say yes and no to on a regular basis, and then expand upon it. When we talked about decision fatigue, I mentioned that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions DAILY. Let that sink in. Now, if you think about all of those decisions every day, no wonder we get so overwhelmed when someone asks us what is for dinner, we have so many other things on our minds to consider every day!

So, I want you to look at your week, what is on your plate this week? What have you said yes to for this season? It can be kids activities, committees, events, etc. Anything that is a commitment is a yes for you. But, also include the little things you have been saying yes to – time scrolling on instagram, running errands, etc. Anything that is taking up your time daily, you are saying yes to that (even if it may not be what I would call an active decision).

Now I want you to write down all the things you have been saying no to. This will include events and activities, but it will also be things that you wanted to do, but did not have the time for. Did a friend ask you out for coffee, but you had to run a last minute errand? That would be something to put on your no list. Was there a volunteer opportunity that came up, but you already committed to something else so you had to say no? That would also be a no list item. But, it can also be things you actively want to say no to.

Adjusting your list

This was just the first go through of the yes and no list. When you look at your list, are there things that stick out to you? Are there places where you said yes, but you wished you had said no? Are there places where you had to say no, but you wished that you had the time to say yes? Circle or highlight those items on your list.

When you look at a yes/no list, and see items on the wrong side, it can be a wake up call. It was for me when I first did this exercise. Why were there so many things that I had no desire to do on the yes list, and so many important things on the no list? Part of this was because I was actively trying to make all the people around me happy before I even gave myself a second glance.

Now, I don’t want you to think this is all about becoming a selfish person and only thinking of yourself. Nope, not the case at all. But, I did really have to do some soul searching. Were the yeses that I was saying becoming a detriment to my family? Was I only half-heartedly participating to fill a seat instead of doing something because it was my calling or I was passionate about it?

You have to reframe that thinking – when you say yes to something out of obligation, you are essentially taking that spot away from someone who is better suited for the role, whatever it may be.

Go back through the list that you have and adjust it. Put the things that should be on the no side, on the no side. Put the things that should be on the yes side, on the yes side.

How to Use your List

Now that you have a better idea of what should be a yes and what should be a no, we need to figure out how to use the list. One thing about writing things down, physically, on paper, is that it helps make a brain connection to that thing. The next time someone asks you to do x, and you know that it is on your no list, you will more easily say no. Why? Because the list has given you permission to say no, or at least it has slowed down your mouth enough to say maybe, and that you really need to consider if that is the right thing for you right now.

Saying no can be an incredible challenge. I think that most people want to be helpful. You want to help take the burden away from someone else, so you put that burden on yourself. But, that unfortunately leads to burnout and overwhelmed feelings. It isn’t sustainable, which is why we are talking about this right now!

The Bottom Line

Will a yes and no list cure all of your overwhelmed feelings and immediately deliver those warm feelings of doing all the things you are passionate about? No, it won’t. It is something that takes work. But, the list is a tool that will help move you in the right direction.

Does this mean that you will always say no to something just because it is on your no list? No, there will be seasons that things on your no list will move to your yes list. This list isn’t so rigid and strict that it can never change. In fact, it is likely that it will change seasonally. There will be busy seasons, there will be freer seasons, and your decisions during those seasons will shift. This is OK!

Remember, this is a tool to keep in your back pocket. It will help give you pause when you are caught off guard and asked to do something or join a new activity or committee. It is OK to say that you have to think about something. If someone asks you for an answer right in the moment, practice saying you have to think about it, and then really consider the time commitment involved, and if this thing is playing to your strengths, or are you only considering a yes out of obligation knowing that it will cause a ripple in your home and family?

What have you said yes to recently that should have been a no? Is there something you have had to say no to because you said yes to something else and were disappointed? Let me know in the comments below! Or contact me here.

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