You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.’
Stephen Covey, Author The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Do you find yourself saying “yes” to nearly everything despite an overwhelming workload? Being a “yes person” is exhausting and can sincerely negate your leadership skills.
We aren’t proposing that you be a “no” person, but that you form professional boundaries. It is essential to know your workload, where your priorities lie, and be ready to say “no” when necessary. When presented with a new task or project, be sure to conduct a proper assessment of what is being requested of you. There is nothing wrong with asking for a moment to check your schedule and assess availability.
If a request comes from top management, instead of fearing that your answer may disappoint, assert that you would love to help (if this is indeed true) and ask what of your current priorities can be pushed back to allow time for the new priority to be completed. This places the decision back on them. If they decide that none of your priorities can take a backseat to their request, then it is their responsibility to find someone else to do it. Presenting a solution, making a suggestion, and asking for feedback makes it easy to come to an agreement.
Try something like this: “I would be glad to help. However, I am at capacity right now. Therefore, one of my existing priorities will need to be placed in the backlog. Personally, I think that *name project* would be the easiest to postpone as it is the least important priority. Would you agree?”
Your workplace, and your your position in the company may allow or disallow for you to shift your workflow to allow for new tasks. If you are unsure of which tasks to prioritize, don’t hesitate to ask your supervising manager. With concrete systems in place, you can spare yourself a lot of stress and prevent burnout by learning how to say “no.” If you don’t have a time management and/or project management tool, we recommend that you implement one.