How To Say “No” To More Tasks And New Projects

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We live in a world of abundance. That is a great thing. But we can sometimes take that abundance and add too much to our plates. We do it to ourselves and we do it to others. We ask them “one simple little favor”. Then we do it again. Then again.

Pretty soon we have a lot of things on our plate. Often of our own doing. But then if you look at the working world it’s the same thing. If you’re feeling burned out at work this is likely one of the causes.

And it’s not that your boss even knows they’re doing it. They ask you to do one thing. Then another. Down the line suddenly you’re overworked and in need of an audit.

Often the situation requires you to speak up and say “no” to a new request. This can trigger the audit that is good for all involved.

Here are a couple tips for making that happen.

1. Figure Out Your Natural “No”

We all say no a little differently. Some are very upfront with it. But they might be people pleasers. They may not want to tell their boss now when asked to do something. They may know that they can come off as direct when they say no. So they hold back. But their best way to do it is probably in that straightforward manner.

Others may be a little more sensitive. They aren’t sure how to say no. When they actually do it they are a little more timid. Maybe they give a few compliments and then say that they don’t really want to do it. That’s okay. Embrace that personality trait and tell the boss no in the way that you’re comfortable doing so.

2. Figure Out How To Make “No” A Positive

No can be positive. I like to bring up the priority list. If the boss asks you to do something you can ask them what you should push back in order to put this request at the top. It often brings about a good discussion on what you should be doing.

There are a lot of things that can seem urgent in the moment. But taking a second to consider the real priority list can help. It may be that you should push things aside and take care of something. But it’s at least worth taking a step back and figuring out the positive next step.

3. Anticipate The Response (And Subsequent Discussion)

Whatever the situation, think about how your boss or coworker may react. You may not know exactly. You may have never told them no before so it’s almost an unknown. Usually they won’t react angry or anything like that. They will be curious and will probably want to have a discussion.

You can keep things calm. Look forward to the conversation. They may realize that they’re asking too much and quickly move on. But usually there is a discussion. So it’s good to be prepared for that. To explain why you have to say no. To explain why you think other items for the organization may be more important. That type of thing.

4. Reset The Expectations

You may have went into this job with a certain understanding. You talked about your need for a 9-5 job. Now after several months or a year the boss is asking you to work longer. Or maybe less. Expectations can change. Often slowly at first. Then before you know it you’re doing something totally different than what you went into it thinking.

Take some time to have a discussion about expectations. It may be that they’re different now. And you’ll have to decide if that’s okay with you. You may have to accept the new reality. But you may also be able to look for a different job.

Often the boss will be able to reset back to the beginning. You can both audit what’s on your plate and adjust back to a level that is productive.

5. Identify “Yes” Opportunities

You don’t want to person that person that is always saying no. That isn’t something any company is looking for. So you have to learn the right balance. You have to know yourself. You have to know the job and its goal. That can help you make decisions.

If the boss asks a certain thing you can tell them no. You can discuss it. Then look for a way to say yes more often. Maybe it’s not the thing that will burn you out, but another thing that will be good for the organization and for you. Maybe you can take something else off your plate so that you can say yes to this new things.

Try to find the yes in every no situation while working.

Final Thoughts

It’s a tricky thing to balance. You want to please the boss. You want to keep your job. You may love the job. But over time a lot of little requests can add up. That can burn you out. It can make you unproductive. It can do a lot of negative things. To you and the organization. Learning how to say no is important. I hope that these tips can help you so you can help yourself and the organization you work for.

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