Mark’s overwhelmed, Sarah’s on deadline – again, Peter’s just lost a client, and all is not well in their worlds. One door to open is the “no” door.
Saying “no” to employees, supervisors, your boss, your spouse, best friend, whomever, might give you heartburn, but that heartburn is easier to deal with than stress and sickness. When Mark’s overwhelmed, where can he go to get back on an even keel? He’s added too much to his plate and is the “nicest guy in the office,” but…. This nice guy has said “yes” to every task he’s been asked to do – in his job description – plus three or four other tasks he’s not willing to say “no” to.
Sarah’s helped her team with the new client, the budget and the policy and procedure manual so they can all be completed by the end of the quarter; she’s doing three jobs instead of just one.
Peter’s new employee quit after 90 days – too much stress; he had to take over, fill in and then interview for that position. The added stress, activities and responsibilities he took on by himself obliterated his sense of humor and caused panic.
If Mark, Sarah, and Peter had said “no” to a few people – not to be mean, by a long shot – but to focus on their priorities, they might not be on the stress highway. Saying “no” to someone means saying “yes” to yourself.
You can’t be in two places at the same time, type three reports simultaneously, or drive, dictate and deliver. When you attempt these feats your organizational skills go berserk, your activities management goes bonkers, and your deadlines go unheralded. You’re also giving much less than 100 percent to one or two tasks that may need more focus. Consequences abound when you take on more than you can handle: less productivity, scattered thoughts, poor results and poor health.
When you’re asked to do another project on top of the other projects you’re working on, ask the “how.” “How would you recommend I complete your task by 4 p.m. when I’m finishing up X’s project to take to the conference the day after tomorrow?” “How can I give you my best work when I’m overloaded now?” Then offer a “solution”: “We can get a temp agency to come help tomorrow.” “If your project is not urgent, can it wait until Friday when I can get X to help me?” Always keep the “yes” door open for both – or all – parties and you.
You can’t be everything to everybody. To be the best you, take a breath, prioritize and then say “no.”