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Learning to say, "No."

Normally, each new year people get all excited about making New Year's Resolutions. You know, "New Year, New You!" This year, I have a different type of resolution - saying, "No." As I reflected on the 2017 year, I found myself taking on projects that necessarily did not help me grow as an instructional designer, improve my skillset, or even interest me. You may ask, "Then why did you agree to do these things?" Well my answer is simple... I have a problem saying no.

Therefore, this year I want to focus on projects that help me develop as well as learning how to select the best projects for me. But, how do I do this? How do I say no without upsetting those I work with. My biggest issue is stepping away from projects that need the most help. One of the best reasons for me to start saying no comes from understanding my priorities and valuing my time. Projects that are part of my job description are falling behind and need to take precedence over those projects that I keep saying "yes" to. When discussing with others - we all run into the same issue. How do you say no?

First, I find myself in a unique position where my boss is 100% supportive and trusts me and my decisions. I have had the discussion with my supervisor where I feel I am becoming over-committed and therefore find myself in a situation where my best work is not coming out. I'm jeopardizing my current projects and starting to make errors I normally do not make. My supervisor is an extra level of support who helps me run through practicing different ways to address these issues and how to say no.

Do not say "I can't". I can't implies that you cannot do the task they asking you to help with. It almost sounds like an excuse or you are being too pushy with saying "no." Focus on the reason you do not want to work on the project and stick with your plan. For example:

  • Explain your professional goals. "This project does not align with my job description or professional goals."

  • Don't sacrifice quality. "Taking on this project will sacrifice the quality of my other projects and my plate is already full."

  • Explain your time availability. "My time is scheduled out for the next few weeks. I only have an hour to work on extra projects and this cannot be completed in an hour." -or- "I currently have other projects on my plate that would not allow me the time commitment needed for your project."

  • Don't give answers right away. "I've considered your request and cannot see how this project will fit in my workload." "I've checked my schedule and am only available to provide X amount of time on this project."

Another thing to consider when saying no is the consequences you may face. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each decision and give alternative options when available.

How do you say no in your job or with other committments?

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