As a country, we pride ourselves on busyness. Having a lot on your plate makes you look productive, healthy, and ambitious. It gives us a status in society. Unfortunately, it’s also rooted in a national workplace culture that rewards long and erratic hours. However, productive employees know the benefits of strategic bouts of productivity and play. In order to ensure you don’t overwork yourself, you need to feel comfortable with saying one word-no.
While the act of saying “no” is simple, it’s not easy. We may have issues that make us struggle to decline activities that don’t serve our best interests. Additionally, you may have power dynamics that make you reticent to assert your own needs. For instance, can you really say no to your demanding boss?
However, smart people learn the fine art of saying no!
Take back ownership of your time by evaluating how to say no. Consider the following questions when choosing to decline a task, event, or project:
How important is the project?
While the person asking you to consider the project will tell you that it’s important, determine whether or not it’s immediate and urgent. Don’t take on projects without asking for a hard deadline. This helps you prioritize whether or not you can truly get the work done. Also, if you have a reputation for being the “hero” of the office many people may be shocked that you can’t do it all. Allowing people to understand your limits will allow you to produce better work.
Will it hurt you politically if you say no?
Office politics may or may not give you the option of saying no. For instance, if someone has authority over you, (like your cough,cough-boss) you may not have the option of saying no. In these situations, you need to assess your current que of projects and determine whether the new addition should take a higher priority. Additionally, consider the person’s rank in the company hierarchy. Can you afford to say no to this person and save face?
Can I build a better case for postponing the project that will better help me reach my goals?
If you are able to prove that you simply will not have the time to successfully complete the task or that it will harm a pet project, you might get relief.
If you have to ask relief from a superior, consider the following:
- Outline what’s already on your plate.
- Explain what you’re doing on the “pet projects.”
- Determine with your boss whether adding the other project will produce less accurate work. For instance, if adding another report is going to hold up prototype testing, the A/B testing should be done first.
Am I allowing guilt guide my decisions to accept too much work or projects?
Maybe you’ve always been “nice.” Perhaps you were told that “good girls” or “reliable men” take on and complete all tasks. Do you feel obligations to your cultural group, gender, socioeconomic, religious, and family? Understand that unless someone is paying you, you are not required to take on everything. Even then, you can always negotiate. Consider your schedule and determine if you “give back” in different ways. Consider financial donations, offering referrals to other services, or just offering moral support if you’re overwhelmed.
Remember, every job, relationship, and business deal is temporary. Deciding what is truly important is integral to your success!