When to Say ‘Yes,’ When to Say ‘No’

A friend emailed me the other day with the subject line, “Am I Crazy?”

She had been presented with an opportunity to take on another project that would come on the heels of another project for which she had also volunteered. She does have mad organizational skills, but I suspect that when she asked the question, she had some doubts as to whether she could do it all.

I couldn’t answer the question for her, but I could provide her with a few more questions that if she answered those, she would be able to decide if she should take on the additional project.

The first question I asked her was “Do you want to do it? Why?” Okay, it’s technically two, but sometimes we say yes to things because we are simply flattered to have been asked, and yet we may be too busy for the extra work. Sometimes we say yes because we are caught off guard. Sometimes we say yes because it is something we want to do, but it may not be the right time to do it.

However, if you say yes to the question and have a good reason — or two — then you are one step closer to a final answer of yes.

The next question is “Do you have capacity to do it without impacting your current workload?” This one is critical because if you don’t have the time, then you have your answer, “No.” It doesn’t matter how much you want to do it, how flattered you are or how it fits into your dreams. If you don’t have the capacity, you have to say “no” because otherwise, you won’t perform optimally.

If you have a good reason for doing it and you have capacity to do so, you need to ask yourself “Will my boss support me?” If your boss does not want you to do it — she may know of another assignment she needs to give to you or she’s concerned about you being stretched too thin — then unless you can convince your boss otherwise, you should say no.

The last question, I suggested my friend ask herself was “Will you make others crazy?” I suspect many of us — myself included — have taken on an extra assignment only to talk about it constantly, whine about it or ask others for help. In other words, we bother our colleagues and family. And because they didn’t volunteer for the extra assignment, it’s not fair to them.

I suggested to her that if she could successfully answer these questions, she would have her answer.

How do you know when to say yes and when to say no?

2 thoughts on “When to Say ‘Yes,’ When to Say ‘No’

  1. Liz Bryant says:

    Good advice. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of saying yes because it seems like fun and something we’d like to do without working through the next crucial questions of capacity and bandwidth. Thanks for providing good questions to walk through the process.

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