You have to say ‘yes’ to a lot of things throughout your day. You answer emails and questions, get roped into mandatory meetings, and need to pick up projects at the last minute in order to meet company deadlines. In some cases, you won’t have a choice about those new tasks that get added to your already-full plate. And in almost every situation, it feels easier to say yes and pick up another assignment rather than risk upsetting a colleague, boss, or people who depend on you. But saying yes too often — or every time — has negative affects, too.
If you’re constantly shifting your schedule to accommodate a new project, or you’re picking up the slack for another coworker on a frequent basis, your own work will suffer. You might think that it’s showing you can be a team player, or that it’s just a one-time occurrence that won’t happen again. But habits are rooted in repeated events, and you can be sure that if you’re in the habit of saying yes too much, that eventually you’ll wonder where all your time went.
If you want to prevent this, or if you’re already at that point and need to get out of the cycle, there are effective ways to say ‘no’ without damaging your workplace relationships, while also establishing clear boundaries for yourself. In some cases, those boundaries are good to let others know where you stand, but more often than not they’re the most beneficial to helping you see where your priorities lie. It makes you more productive and ensures that when you do say yes to a new project, you won’t be burnt out and will be able to give it your full attention. Here’s a list of five tips you can use as a starting point, and adapt for the situations where you need to turn down a request.