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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?
Why are you here?
- You’re a researcher?
- You’re feeling confused or frustrated with the research journey so far, or this particular stage of the journey?
- You’d like some ideas about surviving in health research, or just want to know that you’re not on your own?
Who are we?
We had the good fortune of being thrown together in an office having both recently completed our PhDs.
Lynsey walked out of the school gates into the psychology section of the university library. She often feels like she’s trying to fit eight days’ of activities into a seven day week, balancing researching, teaching, conferencing, paper writing, netballing, dog walking, socialising, Nutella eating, shoe shopping, list writing and sometimes even sleeping. Lynsey loves the opportunity to be involved but has some lessons to learn in prioritising and saying no.
Jodie followed a path from university drop out, uni-bar hopping, backpacking OS travel, plus a couple of beloved ‘career interruptions’. Jodie thrives on the generation of ideas, big-picture thinking, and the struggle for work-life balance that comes with having two young children. Whilst loving research Jodie also has several manuscripts in various stages that make her sad, mad or glad depending on what day it is.
The paths were different but post-PhDs the workplace was new, the work completely removed from our disciplinary backgrounds. We had to find a way through.
Researchers – different ages, different roads, same start, same current space.
Why have we started a blog?
In our office around 3.30 on at least one day of the working week we have philosophical conversations about where the bloody hell are we, how we got here, and most importantly what happens next; about feeling confused, uncertain and at times isolated, and not feeling confident about knowing what we should focus our energy on.
Our email inboxes are constantly bombarded with messages about grant writing, professional development opportunities and increasing pressure to publish but how do we know where to start, what to say yes to and when to just say no.
So… instead of eating yet another packet of peanut M&Ms, we thought we’d write a blog.
What is this blog about?
We have found some useful tools, tips and resources along the way, things that have made our lives easier, or that we wished we’d known about when we started, and we wanted a space to be able to share them, and where other people could share their brilliant finds and ideas.
We have also had some useful and heartfelt conversations and wanted a place to extend these chats to others about issues facing health researchers (especially early career), questions that we often discuss over chicken nachos at Friday lunch and wonder if other people are asking the same things.