Do you feel like you have so much to do at work that you don’t know where to start? Well, according to research from Deloitte, up to three-quarters of companies say their employees feel overwhelmed. In another survey by ComPsych, three out of five employees are highly stressed with “workload” being cited as the main cause of stress. With technology and the “always on” nature of our frenetic lives, it’s no wonder most of us feel like we have way too much on our plates. If you add to that the fact that you have a side gig, the available time shrinks even further.
So, when and how can you say NO at work in order to have more time for what you REALLY want without jeopardizing your job? Here is some advice:
When to say no:
- It hinders your ability to complete your responsibilities – say no at work when the task doesn’t fall under your job description and can likely be completed more quickly by someone else on the team. If it doesn’t fall under the many projects you are being paid to do, it’s appropriate to say no.
- It doesn’t align with your short and long-term priorities – keep a running list of priorities on your whiteboard so everyone on your team can see it. If the request doesn’t fall within that list of priorities, it’s appropriate to say no.
- It doesn’t contribute to your key goals—at the end of the day you have limited time and resources. If a project doesn’t contribute to the bottom line, you have a good case for saying no.
- It conflicts with your values or you can’t deliver results – if the request involves working until 10pm every night when you’re committed to putting your kids to bed, or you just know that you can’t deliver, say no.
How to say no:
Saying no to unnecessary meetings
Meetings are time killers and many managers schedule meetings just to make themselves look busy. If you’re in meetings more than 20% of your workday (which I’m sure you are), that’s too much. First you need to decide which meetings to decline. Three things you should consider include the value of the meeting, whether you are the right person to attend, and whether it is a priority for you right now. If you can say no to one of these three criteria, then it’s best to skip the meeting. Some options for saying no include delegating and empowering someone else to attend the meeting in your place. Then they can give you a summary afterwards of the important points. You can also suggest an alternative like a quick conference call or one-on-one discussion to wrap things up quickly when a full meeting is not necessary. Another option is to decline but provide your feedback in advance of the meeting. That way, you save yourself a meeting but are still considered a team player because you contributed.
Saying no to projects
When presented with a project, you should consider three factors: the amount of effort required, your values and time commitments, and the deadline. If you feel that you don’t have the bandwidth, it will conflict with a personal commitment, or the deadline is unrealistic, there are ways that you can say no and still be seen as a team player (it’s also best to say no in person if you can). Here are some great tips from bestselling management author Suzy Welch:
- Have a list of responses ready.
For instance, if you’re too busy, you could say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m overscheduled to a fault right now.” Or if you’re just not the right person, you could say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can assure you there is someone who is a better fit for that job.”
- Prepare a simple explanation if it’s needed, like “No, I’m afraid I have a family obligation that I just can’t get out of.”
- If you can’t say “no” flat out, negotiate and offer an alternative
By negotiating, you at least have some control over the situation. You also are politely letting the other person know that you are making a sacrifice.
- End the conversation on a confident note
After you’ve done the hard work of saying “no” to something, make sure you end the conversation in a way that doesn’t leave room for further prodding. For example, after you decline the request, follow up by saying, “Thanks for understanding.” This tactic works because it definitively ends the conversation, leaving no room for more back-and-forth.
One Last Tip: Practice Saying No
The more you practice, the easier it gets. You need to work to strengthen your “NO” muscle the same as you would any other muscle in your body. Start with small things like saying no to the waiter when he asks you if you want that dessert that you shouldn’t have or saying no to the cashier when she offers you that credit card that you really don’t need.
Just remember, saying no will provide you with the time and energy to focus on the work that will truly move your career forward.
Let me know below what comments you have on this topic and don’t forget to join me every Wednesday at 12pm CT on Facebook LIVE!