Claim the summer you desire (+ tips for saying no)

I love summer and can’t wait to dive into an exciting new creative project. 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?

life balance

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.

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).

life balance

I encourage you to find some quiet time this week to reflect on what you need during these slower months. I’d love to hear what you *most need* this summer in the comments section below!


  • Hire me to plan/facilitate a custom 1/2 day or full day life balance retreat for your company, team or organization on life balance, resiliency or self-renewal. I’ve been speaking professionally for 25+ years on work-life balance and my clients include Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit agencies, national conferences and women’s organizations. Learn more and email me at workshops at reneetrudeau dot com to explore how I can help you.
  • Craving authentic community and want to find (or create) your tribe? Learn more about our global sisterhood of RTA-Certified Facilitators  and empower/support women in your community!  More here on how to become a RTA-Certified Facilitator and join our inner circle  ($100 off through 5/31; includes private coaching with me).

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum.  She is the author of three books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 16-year-old son. More on her background here.