how to say no to something you don’t have time to do, how to create deadlines you’ll stick to, and more

Over at the Fast Track by QuickBase today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: how to say no to something you don’t have time to do, how to create deadlines you’ll actually stick to, and more. You can read it here.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Kyrielle*

    Also, re #2, if it’s something someone else can and probably will do if you don’t, remind yourself that it will do better with someone who can give it proper attention than someone to whom it is a (possibly-annoying) footnote!

    Sometimes reminding the asker of that helps. “I really can’t; my plate’s just too full.” / “Please? We really need someone.” / “I know. But you need someone who can do it properly; I can’t fit it in, and it needs the attention of someone who can.”

    …again, only if you think it applies / you need it / it will work with the person you’re talking to. But sometimes framing it as bowing out *for the sake of* the thing you’re bowing out of can also work. (And it can definitely help if you’re prone, as I sometimes am, to overextending because it’s just so important. If it’s just so important, but it’s not _your_ highest priority, then it is important enough to let it go looking for someone for whom it can be a high priority.)

  2. Elizabeth*

    For #2 when it’s something you feel like you can’t say no to because, say, it’s your boss asking you to do something, a good suggestion someone gave me once was to say something like “Sure, what would you like me to drop/de-prioritize/re-assign/whatever to make the time needed for this?” (Say it in a way that doesn’t sound snarky.) I like it because it shows you’re willing to do the work but are also aware that you need to manage your time and workload. It also forces your boss to make a decision about what *they* want to prioritize in terms of your workload; sometimes when they actually think about it, they may decide it’s not worth what you have to drop/shift/whatever (which I don’t mean as a get-out-of-jail-free card but as an opportunity to re-focus on the work the team is doing).

    I’ve only used this a few times, but it’s always been received well and was always better than agreeing to do something, letting X fall by the wayside in order to get Y done, only to find your boss displeased when Y hasn’t been completed as expected. (This all assumes your boss is a rational person, of course!)

    1. BRR*

      This is what I use for every request my manager gives me (because she gives too many and they’re all “urgent”). I was trying to do a completely unrealistic work load and a lot of my work wasn’t being used. I have accepted that the organization is a mess in terms of following through on things but by always clarifying whats’ a priority, I helped my stress about meeting impossible standards.

      1. copy run start*

        Ah yes, “everything” is a priority BS. My “favorite” flavor.

        I honestly do not miss OldManager who was constantly pulling that nonsense, and used forced OT to make it happen.

        1. Zahra*

          I have been known to say “if everything is a priority, then nothing’s the priority”. A priority, by definition, is the property of something that has more importance and/or urgency than other things. If you can’t say that something is more important and/or urgent, then you’ve defined no priority at all.

          And I’ve said that to my boss (outside of a “let’s plan your workload” meeting) too. After thinking about it for a few seconds, they agreed with me. (But maybe they are saner than the ones you are thinking about.)

      2. BeenThere*

        This is my go to and variations of it. In some circumstances I get in it writing on the email thread where the work has been requested so the consequences are documented.

        “I happy to work on whatever just let me know what you want me to work on first”

    2. Gaara*

      My boss’s answer to that is some variation of “just do everything.” So as a result, I’ve just stopped asking, and started making my own decisions about what will and won’t get done.

      (I’m jealous of the functional management at your workplace!)

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