Sounds easy…right? Well it’s not! Every time we attempt to write this piece we can’t because we are not quite sure that we have mastered the art of Just Say No #JSNO.
Saying no, learning, mastering and implementing saying no is often hard work. That is because it’s both powerful and important. It can lead to hard conversations and strong emotions.
But there are only so many hours in a day – how do we decide what to fit in and which big rocks need to come out of the beaker? (http://www.worklifecoach.com/Big_Rocks.pdf) And how do we decide which rocks we can fit in – and want to fit in. You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do (https://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2013/01/secret-of-adulthood-you-can-choose-what-you-do-but-you-cant-choose-what-you-like-to-do/). It’s important to find the things that make you happy and find a way to do as much of them as possible.
But it is also important to consider the implications of our decisions. Sometimes we feel like we can’t say no because we’re trying to keep the boss happy or make the most of opportunities that might lead us somewhere exciting but our time and attention are valuable resources and need to be wisely spent.
As ECRs we are often presented with a raft of tasks to work on, some optional, others not so. There are a range of responses to try when faced with this situation:
• Just got to check with my therapist whether I can work on this with you
• That sounds great but could you email me some more information about it
• I’d rather stick a pen in my eye than do that
• (The handball: Get your supervisor to say no) I’ll need to check the work program/current team commitments
• Not sure I’ve got time to fit this in to current workload
• I’ll get back to you…
It is also important to listen to your gut – sometimes the idea of working on particular tasks has a really strong physiological response.
So it’s important to trust your instincts, think about how you would go working with this person/on this task (in the short and long term) and whether you have the stomach (and emotional energy) to say yes. Sometimes the bigger picture is reward enough, sometimes it’s not.
There are also occasions in which saying no can make us feel this bleurgh as well. Some good pieces of advice that we’ve received in the past for dealing with these potentially tricky conversations:
• Delay (thanks Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardiner http://www.ithinkwell.com.au/). When your head is screaming no but your mouth is likely to say yes – instead say, thanks for the opportunity, I’m just in the middle of something/need to check my diary – I’ll get back to you. It’s like counting to 10.
• Think about what you’ll need to give up in order to add this new task in.
• Do something only once. If you’re thinking about saying yes to an activity that you’ve already done many times before and won’t help with your career progression or your sanity levels then say no and say yes to trying something new instead.
If you’re prone to putting your hand up for things but finding it’s not helpful to life/work/career progression we suggest you:
• Minimise eye contact
• Sit on your hands
• Take detailed notes about the situation and feelings on an iPad – makes for excellent reading after the event and can clarify the decision making process. Is it the task? Is it the team? Is it the commitment?
• Go for a walk
• Phone a friend for advice.
Sometimes the universe delivers the thing you’ve been searching for and sometimes it is important to say yes but make sure it is yes to something that is important to you.
Have you found yourself in a situation of needing to say no? How did you go about it? How did it make you feel?