Learning to say no

Say no to standing on chicken poo

For my health and sanity, I need to learn to say no. Starting with big things is too hard, so here are a few easy places I’ll start.

Kristen Lamb posted recently on the importance of saying no. In essence, you need to say no to the wrong things in order to have time to say yes to the right things.

It’s possible Kristen is a genius.

However, recognising the value of her advice is not the same as being able to take it.

If you’re anything like me, saying no is hard.

So I’ve decided to practice. There are lots of big things I ought to say no to–projects at work that I don’t have time for, one more deep fried chicken wing…

But I wouldn’t want to start with anything too hard, so today I’m going to come up with a few practice nos.

The first no: I will say no to missing my morning coffee

When I get up in the morning, I like to make time for a coffee with hubby before I go to work.

His Royal Fluffiness sits on my lap and occasionally bites me, and I get to catch up with what happened on Twitter overnight (usually cat memes).

Coffee reorients my brain inside my head and increases my ability to deal with the world by at least 17%. Days that don’t start with coffee are just not as good.

From now on I will say no to missing the first coffee of the day.

The second no: I will say no to banging my shins on the coffee table, the rowing machine, and similar furniture

I’ll be the first to admit there is something fun about stumbling around in the darkness, blind as a slug, and crashing into the furniture as I attempt to navigate to the kitchen.

It’s not that I’m lost in my own house, more that as soon as I go to bed pixies come out and move the furniture directly into my path.

But after a point the only thing you’re getting from the exercise is bruises on your shins, and you wonder if the whole thing is worth it.

I’ve decided to take a firm stance and say no. From now on I will not walk into the furniture in the middle of the night.

Chicken on a deck chair
I found something good to sit on.

The third no: I will say no to stepping in chicken poo, especially in bare feet

I adore my chickens. They are sweet, loving creatures (specifically, what they love is food), and on occasion they even deign to give us eggs.

But they poo a lot, and this waste tends to be concentrated around the front door step.

This probably results from simple chicken-logic: people come from here, people have food, so food comes from here, and I should stand here and wait for food.

Whoever said chickens were stupid?

Given the density of chicken poo near the front door, it’s quite an art to get in or out of the house without standing on any.

Fortunately, I have small feet and an inbuilt tendency to watch where I step.

But at times I’m careless. Have you ever stepped in poo and had it squish between your toes? Not my favourite pastime.

So I say “No more!” From this day forth I will say no to stepping on chicken poo.

The fourth no: I will say no to finishing reading books that don’t interest me

Life is short and books are long and numerous.

However long I live, I won’t catch up.

Each week I read a maximum of seven books (usually much fewer) and over the same period its entirely possible 20,000 new titles are published. Every day I fall further behind.

I’m enjoying my current mission to read mega-popular books. Each such book I read I feel like I learn something distinct. Even though not all these books are to my taste, they all snagged the imagination of a large audience and have something to teach.

But some books don’t fly as high. To books that don’t capture my imagination and haven’t been proven by a vast audience, I say no. Life is too short.

The fifth no: I will say no to walking face-first through spider webs and getting them stuck in my hair

I mean, why would anyone do this? Especially when there is a reasonable probability the spider is attached.


I feel with these five nos I’m starting towards a lifetime good habit. Now if I can just stand firm when temptation descends.

What should you say no to that you struggle with?

Get my updates right in your inbox. Then you’ll be sure to hear as I fail at each of these nos.

chicken face
You said no to what?

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

13 thoughts on “Learning to say no”

  1. A good list of no’s. I am inspired: from now on I will say no to slipping down my staircase while half-asleep in the middle of the night and washboarding down on my butt. That was distinctly un-fun

  2. Are they all your chooks? They are beautiful. 🙂 … I’ll see your chicken poop and raise you stepping on a cold slobbery cat furball in the middle of the night half asleep on the way to the bathroom. 😀

    1. They are gorgeous chooks, but they’re not mine – though the one coming for the camera at the end looks a lot like two of mine.

      I’ll see your slobbery furball and raise you standing on the intestines of a half-eaten rat.

  3. I couldn’t help laughing. So funny. I’m with you on all of these. I used to read all books to the end regardless of whether I liked them or not. I said no to that about 3 years ago. To many good books in the world. 🙂

  4. Absolutely with you on the no to finishing books you’re not enjoying! Saying no is hard, but I like where you’re starting from. I will join you in beginning small, and will say no to forgetting my tea, resulting in me taking a swig of cold, milky nastiness than bears no resemblance whatsoever to the glory of a hot cuppa.

  5. I do hope Ms. Lamb has read your post, and therefore knows her wisdom has not fallen on deaf ears. I agree that it’s best to scale up before one starts bewildering friends and family with outlandish behavior, like putting oneself first. Since compulsive yes-saying rests on a bed of misplaced niceness, I say no to listening to people who don’t know when to stop talking. Well, maybe I’ll pretend to listen, but really I’ll be doing something productive, like thinking up ways of killing off characters. Characters who are boring and who won’t stop talking die first 😉

    1. I suspect Ms Lamb has not, but I’m going to assume at some subconscious level she knows anyway, because believing so makes me happy.

      Not listening to over-talkers is an excellent one. If you’re not listening you might forego the need to say no to other things they want.

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