By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Sasso Smith

It is the beginning of the school year and sign-up sheets are everywhere you turn. Join the PTA, the boosters, be a room parent, a committee chair. The potential demands on your time, on top of new schedules will be intense. Sign-up sheets are not to be missed.

If you have volunteered before you will be sought out to do so again. If you are new to the school, you will be contacted to get involved. We all know that our schools, teams, and organizations cannot run without volunteers. But how you decide where to spend your time and when you are full, can only be determined by you.

Saying no is considered an art form. There are countless books, articles, and strategies to help you to do so free of guilt. But those instructions are assuming that you also know when to say yes before you get to the point of saying no. You want to help, but you also want to stay sane. You want to be in the know, but not overwhelmed with information.

Use the below checklist before you add your name to the sign-up sheet. Take a minute on these considerations before you make your commitments, so you can decide when to say no and when to say yes.

1 – Time

It is one thing in our lives that we cannot create more of to satisfy our needs. Take an honest look at your calendar, between work and school, and family and sports and church and all the things how much time you can offer to help. I can happily give 4 hours a week from behind my desk. You need a sign-up sheet made? Done. A flyer? Done. You need someone up at the school to give tours to new parents? Not a chance.

2 – Priorities

It is important to me that the teachers and administrators at both my kids schools feel supported. It is important to me to be involved in my community. I am happy to help with sports team fundraising, but it is not in my top three priority places. By examining these feelings before you make time commitments, you can make sure that you get the most out of the time you do spend helping.

3 – Joy

For me my volunteer time brings my happiness. I like my job. I like working out, but when I am helping it makes me feel joyful. Consider that, and now tell someone no to volunteering. To help me say no I consider that along with that joy, volunteering can also bring with it a lot of stress. And when my stress is too high it takes away from the joy I feel in other areas of my life. Weight the balance of joy and stress a role will bring before you say yes.

4 – Family Needs

Every year is not the same. Some years there are big milestones being achieved, like entering the academically gifted program, visiting colleges, or adding a new puppy to the mix. What you were able to accomplish last year may not be the same this year. Consider all your family commitments before taking on new roles. Consider both your own and your family’s needs before signing up. Maybe your parents are struggling, maybe your marriage is, maybe you need a few more minutes each day to yourself. No one needs to know your reasons for saying no, but you if you know your why that can provide the confidence you need to say no.

5 – Hot Mess Express

Everyone knows that there is one. You can see it in the beginning of the year communications or lack thereof. Where can your help be the most impactful? Is there no chance that new youth group is going to get off the ground? Did your child’s teacher mention to you how desperately he needed a room parent? When you think about where to spend your time think about where your time will be of the most value and therefore the most fulfilling to you.

6- Friends

Volunteering with your friends may be exactly what you need. Most of us struggle to find time for a night out.  If that is case for you, take on planning that fundraiser with your bestie! Or figure out how to support her in her role on the PTA, while you go in another direction and make new contacts. My favorite thing is when my friend oversees one thing while I am on another one.  When that is the case, I know both things will go great, and I will know what is happening! If where your friends are volunteering helps you to find your yes or your no, then get on the same page prior to sign-up.

7 – Peace

You need to know that you don’t have to help. This can be the hardest checklist box of all.  You see a need and you want to fill it, but you also know that something from the above checklist is going to keep you from being successful.  And that is OK! You will be surprised at what will happen if you say no. Someone else will step up. They may not do it how you would have; they may take longer to get it done. But if when you reviewed the above you realized that maybe this year you might not have the time, your peace needs to take priority.

Good luck out there! If saying no is hard, think about what you will have to say no to, if you say yes. Envisioning saying no to yourself, or your children or your peace, might make saying no to someone else a little bit easier.

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