It's Friday afternoon, you're swamped with a heavy workload and your boss "pops" in your office for a quick chat as you try to wrap up your weeks work before the weekend hits. In addition to some quick project updates and some water cooler talk, you're asked to tackle a new project that just came in and has a sensitive timeline (don't they all?). If you're like most people, this doesn't really fit within your current commitments, however, the thought of turning down the request is essentially non existent. Without much hesitation or consideration for what the task really involves, you say YES, as most of us do. Why is that? Why do we willingly volunteer to take on more work than we know we are really capable of handling effectively?
For most of us, our willingness to take on a heavier workload and accept delegated tasks comes with little or no consideration of the time constraints it will take to properly and efficiently tackle additional work. And yet, our desire to please our employer is so overwhelmingly strong that saying "no thank you" is not part of our vocabulary.
Greg McKeown, author and motivational speaker, addresses this issue in his book Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Greg teaches that it's okay to say no if done properly and with the right motivation. If you're anything like me, this is both liberating and uncommon.
Saying NO, is more about getting things done, opposed to not doing them. For example, our generation has had a major shift with the term "multitasking". Most employers would argue that a good employee is one that is capable of handling, producing or juggling many items at once, however, our ability to multitask does not give us the ability to multi-focus. Additionally, our society tends to associate those who are busy as being highly valued or of significant importance, when the reality could be that they are busy making minimal progress in any one direction.
The ability to say no, gives us (and our employer) the distinct advantage of being realistic and illustrates our commitment to producing valued work that benefits both the individual and the organization. The power of a well placed NO allows you the opportunity to make a higher level of contribution which will ultimately gain you additional respect and value as an employee. All too many employees have taken on far too many projects in order to advance a cause, only to find it was simply a catalyst to failure.
As an individual who has had the privilege of owning a business and raising a family, I would argue that being able to focus energy and effort into less tasks will produce a higher level of contribution, after-all, we only have so much time to devote to any given task at any given time. My suggestion, find out what matters to you and your life, then focus your energy on those efforts that produce the highest level of contribution to advance those goals.