Ever agree to do something and then instantly regret it? Many of us do.

Your coworker asks you to stay late and cover for her. An acquaintance invites you to a happy hour across town. Or, a friend wants to do a big night out at a new club.

You don’t want to do any of it, but you find yourself saying, “Sure. I’ll be there.” Now, your stuck, overcommitted and already exhausted. How’re you going to fit it all in? You’ll find a way, but you’ll probably be miserable.

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There’s another way to keep control of your time. Replace “can’t” to “don’t.” It’s a simple word swap that will change your life.

Say a work friend invites you to a networking event for professionals. It’s starts right after work next Friday at a bar downtown and the cost to attend is $50. The only thing you want to do after work on Friday is relax at home so you can start your Saturday early with an exercise class–one you really love and look forward to doing all week. The event fee includes two drink tickets and you know your friend will want to have dinner and more drinks after. You also really don’t want to spend the $50 on something like this when that would buy you another month of classes. And, the bar is nowhere near the office, which means walking in work shoes for blocks or ordering an Uber at peak time.

If you say you “can’t” go, your friend will want to know why. For every reason you give why you can’t, she will have a reason why you really can. She’ll say you can go home any time you want. You can exercise at home. She’ll buy another drink for you. She’ll split the Uber with you.

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You’ll end up saying “yes,” just to make her happy and to stop the onslaught.

Saying, “I don’t,” however, leaves no room for counterpoints.

“I don’t go out on Friday nights.”

“I don’t miss my Saturday class.”

“I don’t spend my own money on work events.”

These aren’t excuses to be argued with. These are declarative statements about how you live your life and they are not up for debate.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This trick also works when you feel like you’re losing motivation to reach a goal. Saying to yourself, “I don’t miss my Saturday class,” shuts down that inside voice telling you to sleep in.

The power is in the “I don’t.” It’s a statement of who you are. Not a temporary situation where you are denying yourself or others.

Try it the next time you feel pressured to do something that doesn’t fit in your life or you feel unmotivated to reach your objectives. You’ll find you have more control over your calendar and your goals.