Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I have a confession to make. I have a hard time saying no. I am constantly asked to do things…because I have done things in the past. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I have time in my schedule for the constant inflow of tasks. Yet the tasks still come, and I don’t say no…and I end up overworked, under-rested and resentful.
All because I have a hard time saying no.
Why Not Saying No Is A Problem
Someone once told me that the inability to say no was making you put 5 pounds of sugar into a 4 pound sack. It’s just not going to work. While I can see that (in hindsight), it never occurs to me that I am adding more sugar into the pile.
Because the requests never seem like a big deal.
The thing is, they add up. And they expand.
My husband says there is no such thing as a 5 minute electrical job (he was an electrician in the Navy). It’s true. Even a so-called simple job has a way of expanding and fast exceeds the initial estimate.
“Sure, I can do a flyer for an upcoming event. Oh, wait, now you want revisions? And different art? (and why didn’t you do this yourself?) And now you want me to get it printed?” This is the typical play of events for me. I never end up doing just what I was asked to do. It is always much, much more.
How To Say No
With my recent career change, I have had to really look at what is on my plate. All of my teacher friends assure me that the train was coming and there was no way for me to get off the tracks. So I knew I was going to have to be careful. But I didn’t have the tools I needed to be able to say no gracefully or effectively. So I started asking around, and got some great answers.
Let Me Check My Calendar
One of my friends never says yes or no to anything directly. She always says, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” It doesn’t matter that she has her calendar on her phone and it is with her all the time. She uses that as a way to give herself some space to consider what she will have to give up to stay at her current activity level and still add in the new item.
The space, she says, is crucial. It gives her time to consider the request, its impacts and also gives the impression that she is considering it. So if the answer is yes, she knows she can do it without stressing herself out. If the answer is no, or as she phrases it, “I’m sorry, I can’t fit that in.” She claims that this makes it less likely for the requester to argue.
A recent podcast by Stever Robbins dealt with this issue in the workplace. (I love it when a podcast comes up addressing my current concerns!)
Stever recommends setting rules and limits. Give yourself a set amount of time that you will spend on altruistic projects, and then do the projects until the time allotment is up. Don’t take on new projects if you don’t have time to complete them. You can present this to the requester as a rule: “as a rule, I only do 5 hours of altruistic work per week, and I don’t have any more time this week.” People are more likely to accept it if it is phrased as a rule.
Getting Outside Help
Another friend of mine recommended having another person vet your choices. Anytime she is asked to take on something new, she runs it by a trusted advisor. Not only does this give the space to consider the request, but at the same time her advisor will point out things she might not have thought of, such as past experiences with the requester, or other projects that have been similar. This added perspective saves her a lot of time and stress.
Saying no can be hard; saying yes can get you into a whole lot of trouble, productivity-wise.
Over To The Readers
Do you have trouble saying no? What has worked for you?
Photo by sboneham. Licensed under Creative Commons.