A few days ago I bought a jumper that says Champagne for Breakfast. It’s going to become my new uniform. I work for myself and therefore I’m writing this from my couch, wearing a pair of stretchy pants (I refuse to call them “yoga pants” because I never have and never will do yoga in them), and no bra. This weekend, I’ll be abstaining from a theatre production despite the fact that a friend offered me a free ticket. The idea of cramming into an auditorium with seven hundred other people and perpetually ringing mobile phones isn’t my idea of a fun evening. I’d rather watch Netflix alone with a large pizza in my lap. And this year, for the first time ever, I’ll be celebrating Christmas on the beach as opposed to the frozen wasteland that is the Northeast United States in December.
Can you tell I don’t give a fuck? Well, I don’t, and I highly recommend it.
A year ago, my calendar was overcrowded, my bank account was overdrawn, and I was as overextended as a Ukrainian gymnast on the uneven bars. I was giving too many fucks about too many things and basically living in “panic mode” with no kill switch.
At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
As it turns out, the kill switch is pretty clearly labeled STOP GIVING A FUCK. All I had to do was flip it.
At the start of 2015, it had become hard to get out of bed because it had become hard to leave my apartment because it had become hard to face getting on the New York City subway (Dante’s tenth circle of hell if ever there was one) to go to a job I no longer loved.
And it wasn’t only the corporate grind that was wearing me down. I not only wanted to be a successful career woman, but also the best hostess, the most reliable friend, the most helpful daughter and thoughtful wife. Trying to keep so many balls in the air at all times, the inevitability of dropping one looms ever larger, and that prospect in itself contributed to the kind of anxiety, exhaustion and panic that I also found myself juggling each day.
Then one day, I pulled that kill switch, starting with my office-bound misery. The morning that I walked into my boss’s office to quit my soul-sucking corporate job, I was nearly numb from Xanax and pointy-toed high heels (those things seriously cut off blood flow) but I returned to my desk about three zillion kilos lighter. I may have had a glass of wine at lunch. I’m no sommelier, and I’m certainly not medically trained, but in my opinion Pinot Noir pairs very well with low-dose tranquilizers.
In the days and months that followed, I took the time and energy I saved (not to mention the $200 I used to pay for the privilege of commuting to the office) and applied it to other things that I really did give a fuck about. Because the sad truth is, ‘yes’ has become our default response. We don’t want to appear too cheap or selfish or tired to say ‘no, but by always acquiescing to pub trivia and baby showers and open mic comedy nights we are missing out on what make us happy and sane individuals. And in the process of deciding what I really wanted to spend my time, energy and money on, I developed a very simple method:
1. Decide what you don’t give a fuck about.
2. Stop giving a fuck about those things.
I can honestly say I’ve never looked back. By caring less about the things that aren’t real priorities for me, I have actually gained so much more. More sleep and more sex, email-free holidays, a semi-encyclopedic knowledge of Internet cat memes, Friday nights on the couch with my good friend Baileys, and the time, energy and freedom to finish a goddam book every once in a while.
The NotSorry Method is about, excuse the Oprah-esque lingo here, empowering you to prioritise what really matters to you in life. Of course, those two key steps can be broken down slightly more.
A good place to start is by taking an inventory. List all the fucks being demanded of you, i.e. meetings (time), family gatherings (energy), donating to everyone who knocks on your door (money). Examine each one, and ask yourself, ‘Does that annoy me?’ If the answer is no, this is a fuck that’s worth giving, so keep at it. If the answer is yes, this is a fuck you don’t need to give, and it’s time to start letting go. Over time, you’ll learn how much you’re capable of each week before you become oversheduled and exhausted – and I call this your Fuck Budget. Essentially, it just means you view your time and energy just you do your bank account, i.e. not a limitless resource. Stick to your Fuck Budget, and you can avoid going into your overdraft.
The NotSorry Method is about, excuse the Oprah-esque lingo here, empowering you to prioritise what really matters to you in life.Sarah Knight
Now, because this inventory of fucks demanded will evolve constantly, you need to be able to make decisions on the go, which is where visualisation comes in. Before saying yes or no to something, close your eyes, and visualise yourself in the situation as it plays out. Take the example of a former colleague who invited me to their birthday party at a karaoke bar. Before, I would have said yes right away because I felt “bad” saying no, or because I simply didn’t think it through. Then, when the night came, I’d want nothing more than to be curled up on my own sofa eating ice cream and watching Pretty Woman—not being shanghaied into workplace gossip with a bunch of people I didn’t even really like that much, against a soundtrack of DIY Celine Dion.
Instead of saying an immediate “Sure!” I now take a moment to visualise the actual party. To close my eyes and taste the warm beer. To imagine the minutes ticking painfully by as Dave from finance belts out Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” like his balls are on fire. When I think about it like that, an honest and polite “I can’t make it” seems like the best path toward ice cream, Richard Gere and maintaining my sanity.
My theory is that most people never make it that far because they’re so consumed with pre-emptive guilt about saying no. No, I don’t want to. No, I don’t have time. No, I can’t afford it. But I found saying no and setting boundaries to be hugely liberating, and (as far as I can tell) I haven’t lost any friends over it. And that’s because honesty and politeness are key when it comes to not giving a fuck. The aim isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings. Instead, speak to them in an honest, rationale way, and let them know quicky rather than stringing them along with a ‘maybe’ that’s stressful for you both.
The simple truth is that not every invitation is one you are required to accept. This goes for events like weddings, bar mitzvahs and other parties, as well as “invitations” to cheer someone on from the sidelines of a marathon, contribute two dozen homemade cupcakes to the school bake sale, or donate to a casual acquaintance’s crowd-funding website. That’s saying ‘yes’ out of obligation. Saying yes out of choice is entirely different.
I’ll happily allocate some money toward a shower gift, because I do give a fuck about whether my friends have enough pacifiers and swaddle sacks to make it through the next year unscathed. But my time and energy banks remain filled to the brim with fucks I’ll spend on anything other than playing nappy-decorating games and drinking virgin punch amid talk of epidurals and episiotomies.
And once you’ve freed up all that time, energy and money by not giving a fuck, and learned that it’s nothing to feel guilty about? You have the headspace to discover what’s truly important in life. No matter what you want—whether it’s liberation from a soul-destroying job, more free evenings on your calendar, or more love for yourself and your body, giving fewer better fucks is the path toward living your best life. And I’ve found that champagne for breakfast is an excellent start.