Without being aware of it, most of us are over-committed, by choice or by chance. We’ve come to equate having a lot to do with the feeling of importance. When there’s too much on our plates, our typical solution is to work longer and harder, get less sleep, and give up personal and family time.
But these strategies are a sure set up for future problems – poor health, lost relationships, and a lost sense of purpose.
Over-commitment happens for two main reasons:
- We’re unrealistic about how much time projects will take.
- We blindly accept requests from others, especially from those with real or perceived power over us.
The solution to the first issue is better planning, while the solution to the second issue is learning to say no.
People who can’t turn down requests for their time and energy base their choices and commitments largely on pleasing others. However, being successful is not a popularity contest.
When you allow your time to be abused, you set yourself up for resentment, frustration, and disappointment. When you learn to take a stand for yourself by saying no, these negative feelings disappear.
Here are suggestions for what to say when someone asks you to do something:
- For someone other than your boss, say either:
- “Yes, I’d be glad to.”
- “I’ll think about it and get back to you [specify when]? Or
- “I’m sorry, I can’t. I’ve got other priorities right now.”
- Saying no to your boss is trickier. Bosses assume you can do everything they hand you unless you speak up. Your aim should be twofold: to align your priorities with your boss’s priorities and to partner with your boss about your work.
Here’s what to say when your boss asks you to do extra work. Keep in mind that some requests may have to be honored. That’s when you need to be flexible:
- “If I took this on right now, I couldn’t do it justice because I currently have too much on my plate.”
- “I appreciate your confidence in me but right now I couldn’t possibly do it justice with all I have to do.”
- “I’d be happy to do the assignment if you want me working on that rather than on [name the other task(s) you’re working on].”
- “I can do that for you [tomorrow, later this week, next week].”
- “I can’t right now, but perhaps [name] can. He knows more about [the topic].”
- The most important person you need to learn to say “no” to is YOU.
- Set goals important to you and then live up to/into them.
- Don’t put too much on your To-Do lists.
- Decide what you’re not going to do.
- If you work at home, treat it like work outside the home.
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