2019: The Year of Saying No

Woman holding a calendar

Written by Rachel Bauer. Photography provided from UpSplash.

As we close out 2018 and head into the new year, many of us are setting goals for 2019. When we guide participants through the process of mapping out their goals, we encourage them to think holistically. We begin by establishing our core values, purpose, and focus areas for the year ahead. From there, we map out objectives and strategies to be successful within each focus area.

In order to get specific about goal setting, we must look realistically at our plans and evaluate what we are willing to – or in some cases, excited to – give up in order to achieve our goals. We must firmly say “no” to many things in order to have maximum focus on what we want to say “yes” to. For Gild Collective, 2019 is all about saying NO. And while the word no itself is inherently negative, our intent in using it to guide our business this year is anything but.

If you are mapping out your 2019 goals, consider saying “no” in the following areas:

  • At work: We know that women are more likely than men to volunteer for “office housework,” or the non-promotable tasks that benefit your organization but don’t lead to career advancement. Let this year be the year that you weigh your goals in your mind and firmly say no to those tasks that are not within your job requirements and do not contribute to your goals.

  • At first this will feel supremely uncomfortable, especially if you have been quick to do these things in the past. In fact, you may even feel worried that a sudden propensity to say no to these asks may reflect poorly on you (a worry that I assure you most of your male counterparts have never even considered). If that is the case, be proactive – schedule a meeting with your manager and request that they design and manage a rotating assignment system, assuring that everyone is carrying equal weight for these inevitable tasks. Your manager will appreciate your forethought, and you can use this meeting to share with them all of the goals you have for yourself in the new year. Win/win.

  • At home: Raise your hand if you stayed up entirely too late, or spent way too much time, or spent way too much money over the holiday season on things that have already been forgotten. Maybe you took it upon yourself to address every holiday card without asking your spouse for help, even though almost half of the cards were going to “his/her people.” Maybe you put painstaking detail into every wrap job, every DIY, every dessert you baked. Sure, a lot of these tasks are holiday traditions that bring us pleasure. But do we need to go above and beyond with all of these tasks? Do we need to be the ones in charge of each minute detail, so much so that we are barely able to enjoy time with our loved ones?

  • No matter what holiday you celebrate, the season is always a strong reminder of how much we as women take on within our households and our family units. My hope is that this season has left you hungry for saying “no” to some of these things in the year ahead – not just during the holidays, but any time. Notice that I said “some” and not “all.” I am not asking you to shirk all of the responsibilities you have at home, but I am asking you to evaluate your current load. If you have a spouse, what tasks can be assigned to him or her? If you have items on your weekly to-do list that are obligations rather than necessities, how can you reduce them? As you let go of some of the control and gain time to focus on you, I promise it will begin to feel empowering.  

  • Socially: This area does not need a lot of explanation. If you are someone who looks back at your year and feels like you barely had time to breathe, chances are that you are due to say “no” to plenty of social engagements going into 2019. In order to be successful with this, I highly recommend that you do some homework and evaluate what it is that deserves your incredibly valuable social time going into the new year.

  • Look back at your calendar from 2018 week by week. Make two lists as you do so: one for engagements that brought you joy and were genuinely fulfilling, and one for engagements that you attended out of obligation or that were unfulfilling or even draining. Chances are that these two lists will produce a pattern for you, and will show you the people and places that you want to invest your social capital in the new year. Then, draft a strategy for what you don’t want to participate in going forward, and just start saying “no thank you” to those invites that don’t align with your goals.

In the spirit of transparency, I won’t give advice without giving you an example of how we at Gild Collective are living out these words in 2019. As I mentioned earlier, 2019 is the year of saying “no” for us. But what does this mean, and why?

Simply put, up until now, we have taken every opportunity that has come our way. No matter how thin it stretched us, no matter how far outside of our “target customer” parameters it took us, and no matter how much of an impact we were able to make. Our key learning from the past several years in working with a diverse range of customers with diverse needs is that going forward, our focus is not on quantity but quality of our client engagements. In 2019 and beyond, we will not be working with clients who want to bring in a facilitator to simply “check the box” for women’s professional development. We will be working with clients who want to make a measurable, lasting impact in the lives of their female workforce.

Like all of the examples of saying no I have given so far, there will be an uncomfortable period for us as we get used to our new normal. We will refuse income, which will feel painful and cause us to question ourselves. But the best part about saying no is it will open us – and all of you – up to the many opportunities that lie before us in 2019. We are so excited about what stands before us this year, and feel energized to make space for the right opportunities by refusing the wrong ones.

Finally, as you begin the practice of saying no, remember this: No is a full sentence. It requires no explanation or defense. You are allowed to say no whenever it is healthy for you professionally, personally, or otherwise. So go ahead, make 2019 your year of saying no! Happy New Year.