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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#9: Sometimes, You Need to Say No

I quit a non-profit board this week, and I realized I should have quit months ago. It is a great organization, and I've been involved with it for half a decade—since its inception—and they are doing really good work in the region. But I simply don't have the time, energy or mental bandwidth for it anymore. And I haven't for months, but I kept attending meetings (okay, skipping meetings) and skimming all the emails and committing my support, even though my heart wasn't in it.

It's a really hard thing, saying no. Or saying: I can't. Or saying: I could before, but now I have to quit. As someone raised by two parents with five or six jobs between them, saying that I don't have time for something can feel like a cop-out. But if I'm going to accomplish the things I want to do, I need to stay laser-focused on my priorities, and not worry about whether I "should" be able to add one more thing to my plate. There are only so many hours in all our days, and if we don't spend them intentionally, they slip away.

Additionally (and this is the thing that finally pushed me over the edge on my decision today), any organization to which I commit deserves my full attention. I do not feel right half-assing anything, and especially not the work that has to be done by a relatively new non-profit. That organization deserves passionate dedication from those participating, and representing it in the community, and I was unable to give that. I started to feel like I was stealing a board seat from someone who would be fully engaged in the process and able to do the work that needed to be done with vigor, instead of rushing around at the last minute, cobbling together responses and half-hearted engagement like I was.

So, I quit. I still support the organization. I still believe in the mission and vision and the good work they are doing in the community. But now I don't have to feel guilty every time I get an email from the executive director, or feel anxiety about the time the board meetings take. I can advocate and support their mission from the sidelines, which fits into my schedule much better right now, and allows them to find someone new to fill that board seat.

I would encourage everyone to look at your commitments and see if there is something that used to work for you, but isn't anymore. Once you find it, stop. Or quit. Or say no. And then use that time to accomplish the things that truly resonate with you, right now.


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