Have you ever had too much on your plate or you’re just not interested in taking on a project you’ve been asked to work on? You might not have a choice in the matter, but if you do, how do you turn down the opportunity in a way that won’t offend the person offering? How can you avoid being labeled “not a team player” or “difficult to work with”?
This was my struggle not too long ago. I was given an opportunity that I didn’t want but through some serious miscommunication- I took on that project, completely and totally regretfully. This was the project that broke the proverbial camel’s back and I found myself in a busy season. I’m talking crazy busy. In less than a month, I was in physical and phone meetings a handful of times a week and attended two different board meetings—not to mention finalizing my company’s strategic plan and becoming a new team member of another endeavor.
The pace was relentless, and I was on the go nonstop. That is not how I like to work. But who was to blame? Me. I did it to myself.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation, feeling like you have too much work and not enough time? If the answer is yes, consider yourself normal. I have conversations with people about this problem several times a week.
The good news is that it can change. Here are seven strategies I used to regain balance in the midst of that busy season. I’m confident these can help you too:
Principles to Remember
• Evaluate whether you have the desire and the bandwidth to help with the request and ask if priorities can be shifted or trade-offs made
• Show a willingness to pitch in by inquiring if there are small ways you can be helpful to the project
• Practice saying no out loud — eventually it will become easier
• Use a harsh or hesitant tone, and don’t be overly polite either. Instead, strive for a steady and clear no
• Hold back the real reason you’re saying no. To limit frustration, give reasons with good weight up front
• Distort your message or act tentatively because you’re trying to keep your colleague happy. Be honest and make sure your no is understood
I’ve been diligent to follow these strategies whenever I find myself overwhelmed. And the real win is this: The more I follow them, the less often it happens. Instead of running nonstop, I’ve got the physical and mental energy for what matters most, including the time I need to recharge.