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I’m not talking about alcohol and drugs. Just imagine this: There’s a basketball game tonight you’re going to with your friends. Before that, there’s a Union event in which they’re giving out free pizza, and before that you have lunch and class with a different friend. On top of all of that, you have a test tomorrow morning and a paper due tomorrow afternoon. You won’t be getting much sleep tonight if you want to be prepared for tomorrow. You’re looking forward to the day, but at the same time, you’re dreading it. You have a lot to do but don’t want to turn down your friends. Sound familiar at all?

If this a common problem for you, here’s some sincere advice: say no to your friends.

On a place like this wide college campus, there are always events going on. It’s extremely easy to overbook yourself if you start saying yes to every event you find. It’s even easier if your friends are the ones inviting you to those events, especially if your friends are pushy extroverts who like to constantly be on-the-go (I am sometimes guilty of this myself). The main problem is that they’re your friends; you don’t want to just turn them down. You might feel like a killjoy.

However, this isn’t necessarily true. All too often people forget that they’re allowed to say no to fun events because they have other priorities. This includes anything from needing more sleep to needing time to relax alone after a hard week. It sounds reasonable when you think about it, though in the faces of your beaming friends, it can be a much more difficult to actually psych yourself up to say “no.”

Here are some tips to figure out when and how you should say no to your friends:

Firstly, determine how busy you are and set boundaries. This means deciding what is absolutely necessary and what can be negotiated. Do you have any urgent assignments that need to be turned in during the next few hours or any important tests the next day? Is the rest of your day already stacked with meetings and classes? If the answer is yes, it may be better to pass. If the answer is no, then it’s more likely you can take the time to hang out. Maybe you’re somewhere in between where you could play a few rounds of video games in the afternoon yet can’t go to the basketball game that night. Either way, the time you give to your friends is yours to decide.

Secondly, consider how important the event you’re trying to attend is. A basketball game or an event where they’re giving out free food seems like a big deal at the time, but realistically, many of these events are a weekly or bi-weekly occurrences on campus. How worth it is the trek to the Union for free pizza? Ask yourself the same thing about other events on campus.

Now, it’s different if the basketball game is a championship game or the event is hosting a speaker you’ve really been wanting to see. You could also be meeting a friend you haven’t spoken to in months. These and other less common events are good examples of times you might be willing to stretch yourself thin only to see someone or something important to you. Otherwise, if it’s just a normal outing with friends you see on a regular basis, it might be better to skip when you’re really busy.

Third, prepare yourself to say no if you have to and offer an explanation if you can. Friends are often some of the hardest people to turn down but are also more likely to understand skipping out if you tell them how much is on your plate. Also, remind yourself that no now doesn’t have to mean no tomorrow or even in a few hours. You could always finish your work early or get a sudden energy boost.

Learning to say no has two primary benefits: it frees up your schedule and it encourages others to respect your time. If you say yes to almost anything your friends want you to do, they will assume that you’re not busy or have nothing better to do. Sometimes this is accurate, and that’s perfectly fine, but it can get really frustrating if you’re actually busy and want others to respect that.

So do yourself a favor and don’t overbook, whether that means saying no to a basketball game or an afternoon social. Learn to say no early, so when your friends ask you to hang out later, you can comfortably say yes.

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