What would happen if you said Yes to everything you were asked to do?

You might end up in one of these situations:

•Damitri had a to-do list of over 70 items, and he felt like he was always disappointing someone.

•Amie spent almost a third of her workweek dealing with email, and worried that she wasn’t staying on top of her work.

•Ronnie woke up every night at 2:00 am thinking about all the things she had to accomplish the next day, because she knew before she started that there weren’t enough hours to get it done.

If you’re a people pleaser, it’s easy to say yes when someone asks for help. But when your Yes is automatic, your schedule can start to feel like a traffic jam, and your ability to get things done is stalled.

The biggest problem with an automatic yes is this: when you respond automatically, your choice disappears. You’re no longer in charge of your day. Your choices aren’t intentional.

Why we say yes

Where does people pleasing come from? Saying yes is often an expression of caring, and a willingness to join in when you’re needed.

For people pleasers, though, the Yes goes too far. It’s driven by other pressures, such as:

•you feel guilty
•you want to be liked
•you don’t want to seem selfish
•you don’t want to disappoint someone
•you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity

In other words it’s about two things: guilt and fear.

So how do you tell if your Yes is coming from a place of caring or a place of fear? You can start by taking the simple 15-item quiz below.

Read through the list of common people pleasing behaviors. Then circle the ones that you think play a role in your life.

The “Automatic Yes” 

© Pat LaDouceur, PhD

1. Sometimes I say yes to avoid disappointment or conflict
2. I spend my weekends catching up on work, running errands, and doing chores
3. I don’t spend much time planning; I take things as they happen
4. I often skimp on sleep to get things done

Beliefs and Feelings

5. Everything I do is important. There’s nothing I can drop.
6. I often get so busy I can’t tell what is important and what isn’t
7. I work through lunch when I have too much to do
8. Sometimes I feel bombarded by other people’s needs and requests
9. I worry about the consequences of saying no


10. I often feel stretched too thin
11. Sometimes my to-do list is longer at the end of the day than it was at the beginning
12. I often handle urgent situations
13. Sometimes I agree to do things, then feel resentful
14. I’ve missed important or meaningful events because I’m too busy

Your next step

If you’ve checked even 2 or 3 of the 15 items above, you’re spending too much time on autopilot. If you checked 5 or more, it’s time to address your people pleaser behavior.
The good news is that you can shift your response. Look over the list above, and choose one thing you’d like to do differently. Some possibilities are:
•Before agreeing to help someone, ask yourself this question: “Does this request fit with my top personal or business priority?” (#1)
•Intentionally pause for 5 to 10 minutes between tasks so you can make sure I’m always working on what’s most important. (#7)
•Add everything you agree to do to your daily calendar. When you run out of room, you’ll need to re-evaluate the request. When you get good at this, you’ll be able to finish your to-do – every day. (#12)

Getting off automatic

•Here’s what happened when my clients changed their people pleaser pattern:
In the first week, Damitri used his screening question to cut his to-do list in half in just the first week.
•Amie was able to drop her email time from 13 hours a week to only 4 by prioritizing and blocking out her time.
•Ronnie felt a new sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Soon after, she started to catch up on much needed rest.

These strategies do several things. First, they will help you work more efficiently.
More importantly, though, they’ll help you change your people pleaser habit. Even a small of shift will help you get out of automatic pilot and choose your actions. As you do this, your life becomes more intentional – less like a traffic jam and more like a pleasant drive on a wide country road.

You’ll no longer be saying yes to just about everything. Instead, you’ll have time to say yes to things that make you feel good.

Now, what shift will you make for the holiday and the new year?

Author's Bio: 

Pat LaDouceur, PhD, is author of the forthcoming book, The Remarkable Power of Small Choices: Simple Actions that Shape Your Life. She is a licensed psychotherapist (CA24003), Board Certified Neurofeedback practitioner, author, speaker, and former Director of Operations at a nonprofit agency. For almost three decades, Pat has taught staff, students, and her private clients to be more confident, focused and connected at work and in meaningful relationships. If you like what you're reading, sign up for her Anxiety-Free News at http://www.LaDouceurMFT.com.