I spent a lot of my life tolerating people and situations that weren’t serving me. I thought it was expected of me. I thought I was being “nice.” I thought other people would return the favor.

It took me a long time to realize that I spent most of my waking hours tolerating things that drained, frustrated and annoyed me. But it was such a normal part of my life that I barely even noticed.

And it wasted a lot of my time and energy.

It wasn’t until I woke up and started asking myself “Do I really want to do this? Or am I just doing it because I feel like I should?” that I started to reclaim control of my time and energy.

Here’s the checklist of questions I go through now when I’m trying to decide where to invest my time and energy. If any of these questions come up with a “yes,” then I know I need to think deeply before committing.


  • Do I feel obligated, rather than inspired, to do this?
  • Am I mostly afraid I’ll disappoint someone if I say no?
  • Do I get a sinking feeling in my belly when I consider saying yes to this?
  • Will I regret saying yes to this?
  • Is this activity out of alignment with my core values?
  • Am I unable to postpone this until a better time?

Having said that, even when I do get a “yes” to some of these questions, it can’t stop there. I can’t always just say no and move on with my life. Sometimes there are some very real consequences to saying no. So when I get a “yes” to any of the above questions, here are the follow up questions I go through.


  • What are the consequences of saying no to this? Am I willing to deal with those consequences, or are the stakes too high?
  • Do I have the bandwidth – emotional, mental, or in my schedule – to take this on, or will my well-being or relationships suffer if I say yes?
  • If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to? What am I sacrificing instead?
  • If it’s important to say yes to this (even if I don’t necessarily want to), is there a way to leverage the experience to further other goals or relationships that are more meaningful to me? How can I make the best of this?
  • Are there any alternatives to this request? Could I negotiate my commitment level? Can I counter-offer with something that will serve the other person’s needs as well as my own?

There is usually a lot more room for negotiation and boundaries than we initially think. Allowing ourselves just a few moments to really check in with ourselves before committing to something can make all the difference in how we feel about our lives.

Removing the people and activities I was merely tolerating was the key to feeling excited and energized about my life again, especially as a busy working mom. My time and energy is precious to me, and I’m no longer willing to tolerate people or activities that prevent me from showing up as my whole self, as my best self.

Even if you’re not ready to quit the things that drain your time and energy for good (there can be some very real ramifications, it’s true), you can take the first step by paying attention to how you feel when you engage in various aspects of your life. Increased self-awareness, and the habit of pausing before you commit, can lead to a much more enjoyable life as a working parent.

Sarah Argenal, MA, CPC is on a mission to eradicate the burnout epidemic that’s crushing working parents so they can finally enjoy these precious years of their life. She is the founder of The Argenal Institute based in Austin, TX, host of the Working Parent Resource Podcast, and creator of the Whole SELF Lifestyle™, a sustainable and long-term approach to personal fulfillment for working parents. Visit her website at www.argenalinstitute.com to learn more.

© 2019 Sarah Argenal. The Argenal Institute. All rights reserved.

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