For the past two weeks my life had some turbulence. This put the weekly D&D session I run to be put on pause for while I got things sorted. I expected that this would feel more difficult--returning after being away for this long. What I found instead was a better session than the ones before. This got me thinking about how this is like work and life; and how agreeing to less can mean accomplishing more.
Though we do not always treat it like it, time is a finite resource. We have to manage time, calendars, schedules, meetings agendas. These are all tools used to manage time.
When we are early in our careers and life, it is generally good advice to take advantage of projects when they come. After all, why would we say no to something that could help us advance ourselves in our career?
Growing more successful brings with it more projects. I do not think it is unusual for a person who has gotten a large change in their career to feel overworked (see The Big Shift for my first look at this). Sometimes this is due to actually having a work that requires more time consumption, but more often than not it is due to more projects to prove oneself than they have time for.
Saying "yes" all the time, is no longer useful when you have more projects than you have time to follow through all of them with. Instead of adapting and learning to say "no" to some things, some people will opt to say "yes" to all projects and overwork themselves leaving all their tasks only partially complete.
I myself did this, it is part of what motivated my article earlier this year. One of the things notably omitted from my post is saying "no". The idea seemed foreign to me, and I felt I was letting people down by saying I could not help them with everything. If you personally feel like this remember that saying "no" means that they will probably pass this on to someone else, and probably forget they asked you; however, if you say "yes" and do a bad job because you were overworked, they will remember. It's much better to say "no".
If you are just starting to get a healthy relationship with the projects you have, saying "no" to things you do not have time to do is a good first step. But once you get to the point that you are only doing things you have time for, you need to find out what are the things to say yes to.
Early on this wasn't something you needed to think about but now it requires a calculation, think about how much time this will take, will it squeeze your schedule? Is this something that you have the ability to do? Will this further my career goals and is it worth the amount of time I will be putting in? And finally, is this something I want to do? These are all questions you will have to weigh out and consider. Honestly, it's more of an art than a science and the value of each of these questions will change as you grow your career. Most importantly, don't let someone put you on the spot. If you have any reservations and things to consider tell them you will get back to them. Decisions like this are important, and you need to think these through.
Cherish Your Chosen
The decision has been made, you have turned down some projects, and said yes to others. One of the reasons why the how-much-do-you-want-to-do-this question is important is you need to want to finish these projects, you need to have pride in each of these and polish and finish them. But as always be balanced, don't let one project ruin the others you agreed to.
Sometimes choices can be intimidating, but getting more choices is a sign of progress. Learn to prioritize and you will find that you are much more relaxed in your work.