How To Get Things Done and Say No Without Guilt


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Does this sound familiar?

I have 241 items on my to-do list. 

They encompass all the things I have to do: for my family, for school, for my business, for my home. They include daily chores, monthly renewal items (like change out the kitty litter, lovely job that is), and “once-and-for-all” projects. I add things at a faster rate than I clear them out.

Sometimes I even add items like “read a chapter of a fiction book”, or “take a nap” to the list as a way to remind myself to rest.

And I find the best thing to do is to start the day off with the item, “get up”. I usually manage to cross that one off.

Best laid plans

But many times, all my best-laid plans come to nought because suddenly there’s a “crisis”, someone gets sick, or needs taking somewhere. Or the washing machine breaks down or the dishwasher springs a leak.

I know these are first world problems, but they get in the way of being able to do good work. My list keeps getting longer and my temper shorter.

And so I was very interested in what Orleatha Smith had to say about getting things done during the Much More Than A Mom summit.


Orleatha is a personal friend of mine. She is a dynamo. She’s a homeschooling mom of elementary school-aged children, a businesswoman, and she’s been able to put on this summit, doing all the preparation inside a couple of months. She also lost over a hundred pounds and sticks to paleo about 100%. I interviewed her here.

I am in awe of her, and, in the past, have reached out to get her advice on what to do about my to-do list. 

orleatha smith, level health nutritionHere’s what Orleatha has to say on How to Do More In Less Time: Prioritizing and Learning to Say No.

1. Determine your goal. These might be goals such as “be healthy” or “have a great relationship”. (Orleatha didn’t mention this but I like how she phrased the goal – as though it was already achieved. When I wrote this down originally, I wrote “get healthy”. )

2. Develop action steps to get to your goal and write them down. These are the action items you need to take to get to your goal.

3. Evaluate your tendency to fight fires. These are the items that sabotage the above – carrying out the action steps and achieving your goal.

4. Orleatha categorizes these goal saboteurs in four ways:

  • Fight Your Own Fires
  • Hero Events (Oooh, I am so guilty of this one)
  • Burned Out
  • Fire Prevention

5. “Fight Your Own Fires” are those eventualities that require all of your attention, all of you, no-one else, right now. Examples include, dealing with your sick child, getting your car fixed when it breaks down roadside, getting the presentation together that you are giving in ten minutes time.

6. “Hero Events” are those that you can’t say “No” to, and especially those you can’t say “No” to but don’t want to do. You don’t want to be seen as the bad guy. If you say “Yes” to these, you will never have any time off.

7. How to say “No” (hint, it is a skill).

  • Practice saying “No” in the mirror.
  • Muster courage, and practice consideration for the person requesting your effort.
  • Don’t offer an excuse because it can sound like a “Maybe”. The requestor may work to turn your “No” into a “Yes”. 
  • Offer alternatives: “Not right now, but maybe next Thursday.” “What should I re-prioritize in order to make time to complete that task?” By doing this you are asking the person who’s asking the favor to understand that you don’t have limitless time: this leads to a stronger relationship than one where you feel resentful and overburdened.

8. “Burned Out” is the state where you are simply undertaking mindless, non-urgent, non-important activities, that don’t need you. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, celebrity or other mindless sites a lot, you are in this stage, and you need to re-evaluate how you are spending your time.

9. “Fire Prevention” is the state you want to spend most of your time in. You need to plan and have good communication. You need to take the time to determine your to-do items from your goal and schedule them in your calendar. Make them immoveable objects. These are the items you are going to get done, no matter what.

10. When something comes up that isn’t in your calendar, it is in danger of being a “hero event”. Start using your powerful “No” tool. If it’s not in the schedule, it’s not getting done.

11. Working like this will increase your self-confidence as you watch yourself achieve your goals.

12. Summary:

  • Plan a schedule
  • Practice your “No” tool
  • Make the important things immoveable
  • Get to your goals

And there you have it! Boom, boom, boom. I know Orleatha puts this stuff into practice and gets a *huge* amount done.

paleo, paleo diet, gbs, gastric bypass, weight-loss, dieting

Orleatha is a wife and home schooling mother to two elementary school children. She is also a C.H.E.K trained Holistic Lifestyle Coach. She holds a degree in secondary science education, a biology teaching credential, and a Master’s degree in Education. She’s also a certified facilitator for Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Orleatha has been featured in popular magazines such as First For Women and in The Paleo Miracle: 50 Real Stories of Health Transformation as well as a variety of health and wellness related blogs. Orleatha founded Level Health and Nutrition with the intent for it to be a hub of wellness resources that focus on real food and holistic health. She has published two cookbooks – Cooking Against The Grain – a cookbook designed to help people cook LESS while maintaining a grain-free lifestyle, and Cooking Against The Grain – Sweet Revenge.


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Written by 

Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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