The Tiny Little Word that Can Change Your Life

Abby Lawson, Just a Girl and Her BlogSometimes you read something that you feel was written just for you. It may seem a little hard to hear, and it may challenge you or push you out of your comfort zone a little, but still, its timing is so perfect that you kind of feel like the author may have been spying on your life. 🙂 I have a feeling that today’s post might be like that for some of you. I know it was for me! I am delighted to welcome my sister-in-law, Beth Anne Schwamberger of Brilliant Business Moms, who is revealing one tiny little word that can change your life. Here she is…

There's a Tiny Little Word, that - when used effectively - can change your life! Click to find out what it is, strategies for using it well, and how you can break free of certain mindsets that are holding you back. | Productivity Tips for Moms

Last year, I wrote a post for Abby all about How 10 Minutes can Change your Life. And it’s true! Spending just 10 minutes a day on your great big goal can mean incredible progress over a year, or two years, and especially, over a lifetime.

But for many of you, even carving out just 10 minutes to work on your great big goal can feel like an impossible feat.

Push a 100-pound boulder up a hill with two babies strapped to your back? You got it!

Volunteer at school, the non-profit down the street, and church? You’re on it!

Make sure your kids do “all the things” so you can get an A+ on your parenting report card? Absolutely!

But carve out a few minutes each day for you? For your great big passions and the goals imprinted on your heart?

That, dear ones, can feel almost impossible!

Here’s why I think we struggle so much to find time for ourselves.

It starts with learning one tiny little word.

That word?


I’m serious.

Just say, “no.”

Say no to obligations that feel silly and insignificant. (Selling gift-wrapping paper door-to-door with your kids, anyone?)

Say “no” to doing “all the things”, and instead do just the things that matter.

Say “no” to people who love to pile on the guilt.

But here’s the thing: If saying “no” was easy, I’d just end my blog post right here.

I mean, what more is there to say, right?

Say “no”, and time for yourself will magically appear.

I believe saying “no” is one of the most challenging things to do. It takes work, and strength, and careful thought.

Let’s dig deep together to discover why you might be having trouble saying “no”.


I believe there are six main factors at play that make saying “no” incredibly difficult. Let’s dissect each one to uncover to truth and change our mindset around this tiny little word.

  1. I worry about what others will think of me.
  2. I’m concerned that I’m letting others down.
  3. I’m afraid I might be missing out on an opportunity.
  4. I want to be agreeable.
  5. I place lots of “shoulds” on myself.
  6. I forget that I’m the only person in charge of my time.


There are very few people on this earth whose opinion of us really matters. We have to start there. Our spouses, our families, our closest friends, maybe our boss: These people matter, and we should absolutely care what they think of us. But beyond that small circle, everyone else’s opinion truly doesn’t count.

I am never ok with elevating my position with a casual acquaintance in order to place unneeded strain on my family. We have to carefully consider the end result of saying “yes” just to please others.

Now, this isn’t to say you need to shake that finger of yours and laugh in the face of every person who asks you to do something. You can absolutely say “no” tactfully. But I will never allow an acquaintance to take their red pen and fill up my schedule for me.

Saying “no” in a kind and considerate way makes you a thoughtful person. You’re not a flake who over-commits and then fails to deliver. I’ve been there, and it’s a really crummy feeling. It’s really crummy for the people who were counting on you too.

And if for some reason someone’s opinion of you was changed because of one (or maybe a few) no’s then they’re probably not someone with whom a long-term relationship makes a lot of sense. Those that matter most will understand your thoughtful no.


Think back to what we decided earlier. There are only a few people in our lives who are truly our responsibility – only a few people that it’s crucial we don’t let down. In many cases, by saying yes, you may be letting down those most important to you in favor of not letting down a casual acquaintance.

When the calling to serve is there, that’s different, but when you don’t feel called, don’t let other people’s potential disappointment stop you from making the right choice. In the long run, you’ll let far more people down by saying “yes” too many times and then later having to cancel because you simply can’t take the added stress for one more day.

For those of you who might be concerned that I seldom lift a finger for someone in need, I want to assure you that just the opposite is true. When you keep your life and schedule simple, there is ample breathing room to stop and help others when they truly need us.

I never want to be so busy coordinating the PTA bake sale and serving on random committees that I don’t have time to help a friend or acquaintance who is truly in need. Breathing room gives us room to love and serve others well.


Fear of Missing Out strikes even the most level-headed among us. None of us wants to feel like we’re not taking life by the horns and grabbing all the great opportunities that come our way.

But remember this: You’ve likely already decided what your most important goals are for the year. You’re committed to getting things done and creating the right opportunities for yourself. If this “ask” truly falls within your big goals for the year, then by all means, say yes! (Hopefully, you’ve left plenty of room in your schedule to seize a great opportunity when it comes along!)

If it’s an opportunity that sounds great for another year, but not in line with your highest priorities this year, then you need to trust the process. You need to believe that when you’re ready, opportunities in this particular area will still abound for you.

Fear of Missing Out is such a common occurrence in our culture today. What we should be more afraid of is fear of missing out on the important things because we’re too busy saying yes to every invitation that comes our way.

I have to confess that as my business grows, the opportunities that come my way can get overwhelming: Bloggers to partner with, guest posts to publish, and lots of podcast interviews and joint webinars. I simply can’t do it all.

While some of these opportunities might be beneficial, most of them will take up far more time than they’re worth. As a savvy business owner, I create my own opportunities, and as a brilliant woman, I know you do too. Don’t let others’ agendas distract you from your great big goals.


This trait of agreeableness in women – it’s a beautiful thing. We enjoy working on teams and cooperating from a young age. I fondly remember creating new games and acting out elaborate scenarios with my childhood friends and our dolls. We’re wired for community with each other. Often, we get more done and accomplish bigger tasks because we’re so adept at working together.

However, this same trait works against us when our priorities don’t line up with those around us. Smiling, offering feigned enthusiasm, and saying yes to every little thing can sometimes feel like a requirement of the female race.

Did you know that you can say no with a smile on your face too? It’s possible to say no in an agreeable, pleasant way that acknowledges the importance of the request as well as the value of the person asking. “No” doesn’t need to be rude, off-putting, or alienating. You can continue to be agreeable and be part of a group while giving a thoughtful no.


With the advent of social media, the “shoulds” that we pile on our shoulders have gotten absolutely overwhelming.

I should make organic baby food from scratch.

I should home school my kids.

I should purchase only hand-made, eco-friendly toys for my kids.

I should give them 8 hours of my undivided attention every day.

I should wash their clothes every week. (Ok, well… some “shoulds” actually make a little bit of sense! 😉

It is so easy to compare ourselves to other women and feel like we don’t measure up. But here’s the problem with the comparison game: We end up creating this fictional woman based on the combination of the 10 ladies we look up to most, and then we hold ourselves to that imaginary standard.

We take the woman who’s a successful blogger, combine her with our home schooling friend down the street, add in our sister who bakes everything from scratch, and pile on the 5 super moms we run into at school each week for good measure.

This woman does not actually exist.

None of us can do “all the things” and, let’s be honest, none of us are good at “all the things” either.

Instead of piling on a bunch of “shoulds” that don’t really matter to you, work through your top priorities with my “Only the Best” Worksheet instead.


This may sound obvious, but remember, you are the boss of your time and your days. For many of us, we don’t stop to relish in this truth.

We spend childhood being told what to do by parents, teachers, and loved ones. We are shuffled here and there. We are hurried off to school. We have very little say in how we spend our time.

Then, college arrives, and once again, it feels like invisible forces are at work, sapping all of our time: professors, extra-curriculars, and all the “shoulds” of resume-building and securing a great job insert their tiny little hands into our time bank and scoop out a bit for themselves.

When adulthood finally takes over, some of us finally feel like our time is our own once again! There is celebration and cheering! There is much rejoicing!

And then… we become parents. And our time bank is drained dry – without a drop to spare.

If you’re a mom, it’s easy to feel like your time is owned and dictated by those little humans you live with.

I know it might feel this way, but it’s not true.

You are in charge. (Seriously, can I get a high-five on this one?! You are in charge, friend!)

You get to decide what you do and when. And you get to tell those little humans what they will do with their time. In this day and age of helicopter parenting, this idea feels revolutionary.

Read: Telling them it’s quiet time and requiring an hour of playing and reading alone… that’s your prerogative.

Read: Telling them it’s time for bed and not giving in to whining and tantrums. You get to make that choice.

Read: Choosing to spend time playing with them at the end of your day – that’s your incredible choice too. Relish in it. Remind yourself that you’re blessed to get to choose how you spend your days, and you’re blessed to get to spend some of that time with them.

Now, this is not to say that those precious, little humans won’t have emergencies, or really hard days, or just need more of you sometimes. They will. Don’t we all need more of our moms sometimes?

But I want you to look at your days with a fresh perspective and the clarity that comes from being in charge.

You are not the victim here, friend. You get to be the pilot of your life, and I can’t wait to see how you’ll fly!


Maybe you need this advice not just for the opportunities that present themselves to you throughout the next year, but you need to apply this mindset to your crazy, busy schedule right this minute.

1.) Start by using my “Hours in a Week” Printable to map out all the different activities, chores, obligations, and priorities that take up your time each week.

2.) Next, use the “Only the Best” Worksheet to gain clarity on the areas of your life that bring you the most joy, and the ones that don’t.

3.) Next, sit down with your spouse or your loved ones and problem-solve.

How can you eliminate some of the joy-stealers?

Maybe you can outsource some, and maybe you can step down from other roles. Maybe it involves slowing down the pace of your family’s schedule too.

Oftentimes, eliminating joy-stealers involves setting different expectations for yourself. (My confession: I don’t clean my house weekly. I clean it as-needed, and often in a rush as a family right before company comes over. This works for us, and it saves us hours of time each week. 🙂 )

A woman from my online community went through the “Hours in a Week” exercise recently, and it was life-changing for her!

Here’s what Michele from writes: “Thank you so much to Beth Anne and the wonderful ladies that were on the live feed tonight. I sat down with my husband afterwards and showed him my hours per day/week and he realized how overwhelmed I am. We have decided to hire a nurse to care for my in-laws. I also decided to no longer work through lunch. We mapped out what we want my day and week to look like. It is eye opening when you put your hours a week down on paper. I am relieved and excited. I will now have me time, hubby time, family time and time to work on my business goals. Thanks again for all of the encouragement.”

Whatever you need to do, find a way to cut out at least 3 of those joy-stealers so you can take back your time and spend it on the things that matter most.

4.) If you need some help figuring out how to say no, I’ve got a worksheet all about it: “13 Ways to Say No.” Many of these ideas were sourced from my community, and they are some of the best ways I’ve seen to tell someone “no” in a tactful and thoughtful way. Practice them in front of your mirror if you have to. You can do it!

When you’re feeling stressed out and wondering why you can’t find any time to do the things that matter most to you, remember, you’re in charge of your time, and you have the freedom to decide how you spend it.

You can do this, brilliant lady! You can say, “no”, and in so doing, change your life.

Beth Anne Schwamberger - creator of the Brilliant Life Planner and Founder of

Beth Anne Schwamberger is a big dreamer, adoptive mom, and military spouse. She has a blog and online shop at Beth Anne is passionate about helping women to discover their deepest calling and then take practical steps towards making that calling part of their everyday lives. Her brand-new, Brilliant Life Planner is now available on Kickstarter.


  1. This is a wonderful article full of wisdom. Definitely easier said than done, but the rewards will be so worth it. Can’t wait to try to eliminate some time stealers because I’ve been feeling exactly as you describe! Thank you!

    1. Beth Anne says:

      Woohoo! You can do it Jennifer!

  2. Kecia @ Online Income Mom says:

    I absolutely needed to read this! I have a lot of trouble saying no…and every reason I have for saying yes when I shouldn’t is in your list. I’m going to remember this post the next time I should say no!

    1. Beth Anne says:

      Hey Kecia,
      I’m so glad this was helpful to you! Sometimes we just have to say it out loud, right, to realize we’re kinda buying into some myths.

      You can do it, girl!

  3. Katie Jones says:

    WOW – so simple, so true! Really needed to hear this… stop spying on my life! 😉 Thank you!

    1. Beth Anne says:

      Haha, sorry Katie! You got this – you can say NO and have a life with more joy 🙂 I believe in you!

  4. Barb Sturrock says:

    Thank you for this. I really needed a back me up kind of post. I have just said No to something that I have done every year for 20 years and hated it. I was feeling guilty and disgusted with myself, but I just don’t have time this year. So Thank you for making me feel better about my decision.

    1. Beth Anne says:

      Aww Barb, no need to feel guilty. You got this. I know you made a difficult but very brave choice. Proud of you!

  5. Great advice and very well stated! Said “no” to someone this morning who was trying to guilt me into something. I recalled your article and said “no” without any problems. 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Beth Anne says:

      Betty that’s AMAZING!!!

      Keep this post in your pocket, lol. You can do it!

  6. Margaret Canavan says:

    Voted. Love your blog so much, you totally deserve your nomination. Good luck hun. Xxx

    Margaret from

    PS your sister in laws post is truly amazing. Life changing amazing. It’s given me serious food for thought. Thank you to Beth Ann.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Margaret! You’re too sweet! I totally agree with you on Beth Ann’s post. It is SUCH an important thing to learn to do and to do well. Easier said than done, but SO worth it!

      ~Abby =)

  7. Saying no is so important! I know it is, and yet I fail at it time and time again. What do you do when I close friend is making greater and greater demands on you and your time? I don’t want to be a bad friend and still I know that I can’t say yes to everything she asks. I have gotten better, but there is still so far to go! You put it so clearly and it’s such a great reminder of what is actually important.

    Thank you for this post, I’m going to bookmark it and reread it whenever I feel the urge to say yes to things that I don’t want to do.

  8. Daria Harvey says:

    I’ve got a big smile on my face. I’m writing today about saying no-specifically to every volunteer position asked of you. Because I spent several years as a professional volunteer and drove myself and my family crazy. I had a bit of an a-ha moment. But what really helped me learn to say no (because your perfect blog post hadn’t been written yet!) was a book called The Disease to Please. I had it, but I’m in recovery now. Brilliant post. I’m sure this will help many, many people.

  9. Very well put. It’s so hard to put ourselves first, I’ve had a hard time saying no all my life. Thank you for this reminder!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, Liz! It really is so tough sometimes!

      ~Abby =)

  10. Wow. Yesterday a fellow blogger and friend shared this quote from Dave Ramsey, “No is a complete sentence.” Then today I attended Arby’s webinar. I decided to check out her blog and I find this. I call myself a recovering people – pleasing perfectionist. Definitely need to look up your sheet of 13 ways to say no! My question is, how do you say no to people who pile on guilt? Be one immune to the guilt?

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I hear you! It can be so hard when other people are determined to control your time. I would say just stick to your guns and realize that them trying to guilt you into something that isn’t part of your “best stuff” is a reflection of something they need to work on, not something you need to work on. And I’m totally “preaching to the choir” here because this is definitely something I struggle with as well! Thank you so much for joining us for the webinar! I hope you’re having a wonderful week!

      ~Abby =)

  11. This article is amazing. I had drafted something very similar in regards to putting our romantic relationships top priority and learning to say no to many of the things and people who suck our valuable time and energy. Great relationships require purposeful investment, something difficult to do if we’re people pleasing and stretched too thin. My website won’t launch until mid to late November. I’m currently researching and reading framework to prepare myself for future success ! Thanks for sharing.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, Deanna! Saying “no” is definitely something that isn’t easy for me and definitely takes practice! Congrats on starting a blog and I hope Framework is helpful for you! Have a great week and happy blogging!

      ~Abby =)

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