Before you flippantly agree to a request for your time (fun or not as fun), stop and answer these 3 questions — you might just save your sanity!
Over the course of my life, I have been asked to take on a variety of extra responsibilities — many of them as a volunteer, some as paid opportunities.
There are also so many things I’ve simply wanted to do because they sound fun or exciting.
But with 4 children and a work-from-home job, I must be intentional and strategic with how I allocate my time each day.
I do this by answering 3 specific questions before I say “yes” to requests for my time and energy.
Everything from personal hobbies and house projects to volunteer work and extracurricular activities — even many of my business opportunities (sponsored posts, speaking events, VA work) get filtered through the questions below before I give my final answer.
At first glance, some of these questions may sound selfish — but keep in mind that the ability to wisely steward our time requires boundaries (which can be misinterpreted as selfishness).
People and organizations will ALWAYS take more of our time if we’re willing to give it — not because they are bad people or greedy organizations; but simply because we live in a world where “more” is always desired!
Remember, YOU are your own best advocate and you always have a choice.
question #1: Is this something I’m excited or passionate about?
Are you super excited to get involved with your child’s school? Do you feel passionate about an organization in your church or local community? If so, jump at the chance… but if not, pause before you immediately agree to help out.
Whether it’s a house project, a school activity, a church committee, or even a new diet plan, we’re much more likely to work diligently and succeed if we’re fueled by excitement and passion versus guilt or a sense of duty.
As moms, we certainly do plenty of things we’re not overly excited about each day (laundry, cleaning bathrooms, weeding, packing lunches, etc.) We don’t need to allocate extra time to unnecessary activities we’re not excited or passionate about.
question #2: Is this something I have the skill to do well?
- Are you great at leading? Then say “yes” to heading up that committee at school.
- Are you a pro at listening? You’d be a great mentor for that local outreach program.
- Do you love to cook and bake? Then set up a meal train for that family from church.
When we already have the skills to do something, the whole process is more fun, more rewarding, more efficient, and more enjoyable — a.k.a. a lot less effort and dread.
Of course, there are seasons of life when we should look for growth and learning opportunities (you know I’m a huge advocate of life-long learning), but when push comes to shove and your time is maxed out, save your “yeses” for things you already have the skills to do well.
question #3: Is this the best season of life to say “yes”?
If you feel discouraged because you can’t seem to make the time for the things you used to enjoy, it might just be the season of life you’re in right now… and that might be a season of more “nos” than “yeses”.
Before we had children, Dave and I were what I call “volunteer junkies”.
We went to all the extra school functions, we participated in so many church functions, we were involved in numerous community programs, Dave was coaching 3 sports, and I was leading and speaking for a number of classes, workshops, and events every month.
- We were excited about it all and truly enjoyed spending our time this way.
- We had the skills to do everything well.
- We were in the “DINK” season of life (dual income, no kids) with tons of discretionary time to devote to these extra activities.
Then we had 4 children in 5 years and cut WAY back on our “yeses” (for a season).
Now, with older, more self-sufficient children, we’re in another season of heavy volunteering. However, we volunteer for the things our children are most interested in.
- Dave was an assistant coach for Simon’s football team and will be for James’ basketball team.
- I’m the aide for the 6th-grade teachers and help out with middle school hot lunch, so I see Nora at school every week.
- I’m the room mom for 2 of the kids’ classes so I get to hang out with them and their teachers throughout the year.
- I’m helping out with Robotics tournaments for Nora’s team.
- Dave and I both lead Sunday School at church — and all 4 kids participate.
- I direct the children’s choir all 4 of our kids are in.
We are doing things we feel passionate about, using our gifts and skills, and doing it in a way that meshes so well with our current season of life — parenting 4 middle-aged kids.
In another 5 years, things might look very different for our family — but this works for our current season.
bonus question: Does this need me?
There have been times in my life when I’ve honestly answered “no” to questions #1 and #3… but knew I needed to say “yes” to the request because I had the skills (#2) and the project needed me.
No one else stepped up to do it, and even though I wasn’t necessarily excited about doing it nor was it the best season of life for me, I had the specific skills to do it and it just needed to be done.
HOWEVER, this bonus question comes with a big caveat… just because no one else is stepping up to do it, doesn’t automatically make it YOUR problem to solve.
Several months ago, I was asked to help out with something at the kids’ school (something I’ve always volunteered for in the past, but intentionally decided not to do this year). I felt pressured to “give in” when no one else stepped up, but I wasn’t excited about it, it wasn’t a great season for me, I was already volunteering in so many other areas, and even though I had the skills to do it well, the project did not need me specifically. Any parent could have stepped into this role immediately.
I ultimately said “not this year” and I initially felt bad. But now, halfway into the school year, I’m so thankful I didn’t give in to the pressure to say “yes”. There’s always next year!
Answering these questions (often mentally in just a few seconds) helps put things in perspective and allows me to honestly evaluate whether saying “yes” is the best answer for me and for my family in our current season of life.
Hopefully these questions will save you a bit of stress and heartache as well!