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Get Better At Saying No

Saying No doesn’t just involve making a ‘nuh’ sound while forming an ‘o’ with your mouth, there’s a whole heap of psychology, behaviours and feelings behind it.

How many times have you asked yourself why you agreed to do a pitch, proposal, set of accounts, take  phone calls, or attend a meeting on someone’s behalf, when you haven’t got enough time in the day to get your own work done!

And human behavior being as it is, when you’re seen as friendly and amenable, people come back again and again encroaching on your time until it becomes a habit and suddenly you’re doing favours and extras for business partners or colleagues while constantly under-pressure to get your own work done. If left unchecked, this can lead you to becoming overwhelmed in your working and personal life.

What starts with frustration can quickly turn to anger, unhappiness and sometimes…to the decision to quit.

Let’s look at some possible causes and possible solutions

You’re a nice person who wants to help everyone

Yes, but at what cost? What effect does it have on the business? Do you feel taken advantage of? What are your feelings about this?

Solution: Write a note every day for a week of every task you do and how much time each task is taking. Mark in red tasks that are not part of your job. By the end of the week, you’ll clearly see how much of your week is spent doing parts of other people’s jobs.    

You lack confidence. Their schedule is more important than yours. You find you can’t say No

Solution: Decide that your schedule is your priority. Write down what you contribute to the organization in terms of value. Write down the consequences of you not getting your job done.

Next, reflect on your key strengths. Are you using these daily? Go back to your list of weekly tasks and the percentage of time you spend on each to identify which key strengths you use doing your work. If there’s a big gap, you’ll realise that you are not optimizing your time at work. This has implications for ROI and personal happiness.

Next, talk to your business partner or manager. Discuss with them your job description and the changes that you’re encountering to your schedule every week. If it’s the partner or manager who is giving you the extra work, you’ll be showing leadership by highlighting the situation. Take about the implications to the business, to the ROI. Have an open discussion about setting clearer boundaries around your key responsibilities, your strengths and your time. Perhaps you might agree to take on some of the extra responsibilities for extra money? Or give/swap some of your responsibilities with another colleague.

You lack management training

Solution: Setting boundaries is a key management skill. A short management course or one-on-one training and coaching will develop these skills.   

Reflect honestly on the implications to you personally and to the job of you not getting your own work completed on time every week. Do you have to work overtime? Are you working at home in the evening or weekends to get work finished when you should be taking time out? Are you skipping lunch or not taking exercise which is having a knock-on effect on your health and wellbeing?

Perhaps a new person needs to be hired to take over these extra responsibilities. Because you’ve examined the tasks involved objectively, you now have fresh eyes to recruit for a potential new role.

You want to change aspects of your job

Solution: Perhaps you’re agreeing to take on the extra work because your job no longer excites you. Discuss this with your partner or manager. Are you bored with some of your responsibilities? Are you agreeing to the extra work because you really want to be doing that work? Once you’ve looked at your weekly schedule, examined your strengths and your beliefs, you’ll be clearer on what you want and take action.

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