How and when to say “no”

Struggling with too many commitments? You might want to try a powerful and simple time management technique: saying “no”.

In this post at GradHacker, Stephanie Hedge offers a list of questions you should ask yourself before before jumping into that next committee:

 When someone comes to me asking for a favor, or looking for help with a project, or needing a body for a committee, I always say yes…But as I worked frantically to finish my dissertation I found that I didn’t have the time, energy, or brainpower to edit that paper, chair that panel, or cover that class. Saying no became the only way I could focus on my own work and get through my degree

Natalie Houston also takes a look at why we say yes too often and provides some advice for applying the brakes in this article at The Chronicle for Higher Education:

The most important thing you can do to ease your habit of over-committing is to institute a 24-hour waiting policy on any invitations or commitment decisions. Very few things have to be decided on right then and there…

Have you successfully integrated “no” into your repertoire? What motivated you to do so? What challenges have you encountered in saying “no”? If you still say “yes” too often, what’s stopping you from trying a new tactic?



2 comments… add one
  • Tom Jul 5, 2013 @ 18:00

    I think that learning to say ‘no’ is only part of the solution – we also have to learn to accept ‘no’ as an answer when it is someone else that is saying ‘no’ to us. On the rare occasions where I do finally say ‘no’ to avoid severely over-committing, I find that people are rarely understanding, and will often insist.

  • Nick Jul 6, 2013 @ 16:13

    I was told by several different former grad student’s that had worked with my adviser that I would graduate when I learned to tell him no. It was absolutely true. Not only is it an important skill to learn to avoid being overwhelmed, but I’ve noticed that people generally respect someone who occasionally says no to them more than someone they know will always say yes. Of course most of the time it really is best to say yes as a grad student or post-doc, so we really have to learn how and when.

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