Set a summer intention (+ 9 ways to say no)

What’s your intention for this summer?

Do you plan to slow down and enjoy expanses of unscheduled time with your family? Is there a work or creative project you want to complete by early September? Do you desire to reconnect with those you love and start living more in the present? Maybe you’re exhausted and need to pull out your calendar and block out periods for rest and renewal? Or, perhaps you’re looking forward to the summer months as an opportunity to reflect on any course corrections you want to make for the fall?

If you’ve ever had the experience of waking up on Labor Day and realizing your summer was not quite what you had envisioned, you know how key it is to enter this season with purpose. With an intention.

life balance

In the woods of Brevard, NC; my regular summer home away from home.

One of the most popular tools from my first best-selling book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life  is the Nine Ways to Say No list from Chapter Four on Managing Your Energy, Setting Priorities and Saying No.

We have a finite amount of energy.

In addition to being over-scheduled and overworked, most of us waste a lot of energy through endless hours in front of the TV, on our phones or devices, or engaging in activities that don’t really feed us. One highly effective way to harness your attention and energy so you can focus on what really matters, is to say “no” to those things that are non-essential and to the “shoulds” –so you can say “yes” to what matters most.

Learning to say “no,” is like exercising—the more you practice saying it, the stronger you become. Here’s some helpful language from our Personal Renewal Groups to support you in mastering this essential skill:

Nine Creative Ways to Say No

1.Just No: “Thanks, I’ll have to pass on that.” (Say it, then shut up.)

2.The Gracious No: “I really appreciate you asking me, but my time is already committed.”

3.The “I’m Sorry” No: “I wish I could, but it’s just not going to work right now.”

4.The “It’s Someone Else’s Decision” No: “I promised my coach (therapist, etc.) I wouldn’t take on any more projects right now. I’m working on creating more work/life balance.”

5.The “My Family is the Reason” No: “Thanks so much for the invite, but that’s the day of my son’s soccer game, and I never miss those.”  (Consider hiring a coach to help you get clarity here.)

6.The “I Know Someone Else” No: “I just don’t have time right now. Let me recommend someone who may be able to help you.”

7.The “I’m Already Booked” No: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m already booked that day.”

8.The “Setting Boundaries” No: “Let me tell you what I can do …” Then limit the commitment to what will be comfortable for you.

9.The “Not No, But Not Yes” No: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”

As you look at the months ahead and consider a new work, family or volunteer project or commitment, remember that while important, it will take away time and valuable energy from your heart’s greatest desire. Pause, reflect on how you want to experience this summer and remember, “Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least,” (thank you Goethe).

I encourage you to find some quiet time this week to reflect on what you need this summer. The next 90 days are precious.


Live Inside Out,   is a weekly blog written by transformational coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum.  She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15 year-old son. More on her background here.