When I was a young violist, working hard to get as many gigs and students as I could, a colleague gave me a piece of advice that seemed really good at the time:
“Just say yes to everything! If it’s a decent gig, take it – it might lead to something bigger.”
Without a second thought, I wholeheartedly embraced this advice. I had already learned the hard way that if I said “No” to a gig, I might never get called by that personnel manager again.
I knew that if I turned down too many students or teaching opportunities, people might stop calling me.
But before long, I had said “Yes” to so many things that my schedule became unmanageable. I was extremely well-organized, but that wasn’t enough.
No matter how carefully I organized my life, I was getting stretched dangerously thin.
My practice time evaporated. My personal life disappeared. All I did was work…and yet I never had enough time to do everything I needed to do. So I worked harder.
I was able to maintain my all-work-no-breaks lifestyle for a while, barely scraping by with performances that I knew didn’t represent my best work and teaching lessons that I had barely prepared for. But I constantly worried that I was forgetting something. I wasn’t sleeping enough and my relationships were suffering as a result of my work schedule.
Finally, a mentor pulled me aside.
She told me: “You’re doing too much. I’ve heard about all the projects you’re working on — this isn’t sustainable. If you really want to accomplish your goals, you need to take a few things off of your plate.”
I was shocked.
Plaintively, I argued: “But if I say ‘No’ to something, I will miss out on that opportunity. I might never get called again. What if it’s a really great gig and I want to do it?! I can do it!”
With a smile, my mentor gently responded: “You can’t do everything. You may want to, but you’re human. We’re all human. If you say ‘No’ to one thing, you’ll create space for the truly important things.”
Creating Space by Saying “No”
Later that day, a colleague asked me to do a gig that would require a big time commitment…with little pay and no long-term potential for growth. I really wanted to play the repertoire…but I knew what I had to do.
Worried that I might be making a huge mistake, I courageously said “No.”
Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I started cleaning up my cluttered schedule. I removed unnecessary tasks, I became more efficient, and I only added tasks and events that aligned with my goals.
Amazingly, my productivity skyrocketed. I accomplished so much more, I felt focused and rested, and I started enjoying my life again.
And because I created the time I needed to arrive at every gig totally prepared, my colleagues started to notice. Before long, I was getting asked to do more prestigious gigs. Strategically, I accepted a few and turned down the rest.
Learning how to say “No” changed my life. I am so thankful for the mentor who taught me this crucial skill.
If you’re looking for more balance in your life, try removing something from your schedule today.
As you begin to embrace the life-changing art of saying “No,” you might wonder how to take all of this to the next level.
If that sounds like you, you’ll be interested in “Overwhelmed to Organized,” a new online course (coming soon) for music teachers.
In this course, you will learn how to go from overwhelmed and exhausted to mindfully organized and joyfully efficient.
If you’d like to be the first to receive details about this course and receive a special offer when it launches, join the interest list here:
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