by Tiffany Waddell Tate
It took me a long time to acknowledge and accept the power of the word “no.” A full sentence—generally requiring little to no explanation—it can be a professional’s best friend.
In the early days of my career, I found myself operating similarly to the way I did as an eager undergraduate student at a small liberal arts college: do more, with less time, and do it all exceptionally well—by any means necessary. Of course, this is not a sustainable way of life, nor one for the faint of heart. Saying “yes” to various opportunities, projects, and requests that come your way is a great way to build relationships across an organization. It is also a great way to cross-train and gather experience along the way. Once you are perceived as engaged and reliable, it can even lead to new opportunities, projects, and requests that further stretch your professional capacity to take on even more opportunities, projects, opportunities, and….well, you get my drift, right?
But what happens when the ethereal work/life balance ideal that we all want, feels a bit out of reach? What happens when burnout comes quickly and with a vengeance? Does your new lack of enthusiasm mean you aren’t actually built for the task or role at hand?
In creeps the imposter syndrome that many of us know and love (to hate). Saying no can feel like you are sabotaging your own career—or, so I used to think.
Saying no as appropriate allows me to not just get priority things done, but better handle all of the things on my plate. Being busy does not always mean better. Though I am pretty good at managing my time (for my StrengthsFinder friends in the audience—Achiever & Focus are in my top five!)—I find that creating more space (literally and figuratively) to work on things also fosters much more creativity. My overall sense of well-being is higher, and I am less likely to take work home with me (unless I want to, as opposed to feeling like I have to in order to stay afloat with my to-do list). I get in the zone—and wonderful things get accomplished—to do list and all!
Saying no, as appropriate, breeds healthy practices and work/life strategy. My call to action for you today, is to try it. It’s not always easy—but it is a must for survival and continued excellence and creativity.
What are you saying no to today, so that you can focus in on what matters most?
Tiffany Waddell Tate, Associate Director for Career Development, Davidson College
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanywaddelltate Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell