Take Control of Your Workload by Saying No
Remote work, increased responsibilities, canceled recreation, and months of quarantine are testing the strengths of the best of us. Boundaries around personal time and space blur. Constant stress and uncertainty exhaust us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You can manage your load by remembering there are times that you can say no. Learning to say no firmly and diplomatically can be a hard skill for some. But it is a necessary form of self-protection during these stressful times.
Here are some strategies that help avoid offending people when you have to say no:
Postpone the Decision
It’s okay to take your time to think before you respond to a request. This will help reduce the stress that an immediate answer activates. Buy yourself some time (even a few hours) to consider if yes is even possible, and/or how you can say no. By trying to buy some time you will reduce your stress reaction and its possible the person may decide the task is not necessary or that someone else can do it. They may even forget that they asked you.
Seek the Protection of Your Supervisor (If Possible)
If the ask is work-based, you can get help from someone above you. For instance, your supervisor who is familiar with your current work load can be the one to provide you with a solid reason for saying no.
Ask the Person to Help Your Prioritize Tasks
If it’s one person that’s constantly asking you to do things and it feels like the work they’re asking you to do is piling up, then ask them to help you figure out which tasks really need to be done, which ones can be dropped or delayed, and which one is the priority.
Reduce the Scope of the Demand
If you’re in a situation where you can’t say no, such as to a supervisor or dean, then see if you can reduce the scope of work. Be transparent about your bandwidth and why the amount of work must decrease: “I would love to help you, but I can’t manage all of it. What on my list should we eliminate, delay or handoff if I take this new task?”
Say No to Yourself
Sometimes there are good opportunities that you really want to take on but could cause you more stress, which may bring the quality of your work down. It may be hard to do, but for the sake of your sanity and reputation, you might need to pass on an opportunity that sounds exciting or fun.
Saying no isn’t easy, especially if you want people to be happy and satisfied with your work. Practice saying no diplomatically to family, friends, and coworkers. People will always ask, but you can control how you respond.
Thanks to Amanda Shaffer, Shaffer Coaching, LLC, for providing the content that this blog post is based on!