The Benefits of Saying No for Busy Professionals

Today, only 7 percent of households reflect the “traditional” family: dad goes to work while mom stays at home with their household-average 2.5 children.

From dual income families to single parents, the majority of adults are living a real-time balancing act. Increased commitments have led to increased stress levels both at work and at home, especially for millennials. We’re finding it hard to find an equilibrium amid a vast array of opposing needs. Our overcommitted lives are keeping us from moving toward our goals. Instead, they feel like a constant volley of activities being passed back and forth until we fall down, exhausted.

It is hard to say no. It is especially hard to say no when we hope for a promotion or a raise. We end up taking on so much that we quickly become incapable of doing anything well. Instead of looking like a superstar, we end up looking like a donkey: great at carrying the load, but not so great at leading or innovating.

Emmy Award winner and entrepreneur Paula Rizzo ran through some great tips for saying no gracefully to Entrepreneur, eloquently expressing why saying no is important:

Once I started to really put value in my minutes, things changed. I got to do more of the things I loved while still maintaining my work relationships.

Rizzo realized that every minute held value. She decided to respect the value of her time and use it to learn, do what she loved, and build excellent rapport with colleagues. By saying no, she could trim tasks that didn’t serve her well, freeing up energy for tasks that would help her progress in her field. She used her energy wisely so she could shine.

Bupa, a healthcare company headquartered in the UK, recently launched a campaign to find feel-good moments that led to better health. They surveyed 2,000 people to find out what brought them happiness and what made them feel bad. While 64 percent of respondents cited stress, lack of sleep, and rudeness as their biggest stressors, their moments of joy were much simpler. Having freshly-laundered sheets, being in the sunshine, and enjoying time to oneself were the pleasures most often noted by respondents. When we say yes to everyone, we miss out on the simple delight of quiet time. Being alone gives us time to refresh our minds and bodies. When we have taken this time, we can come to work with fresh eyes and apply ourselves more fully to our work. This will yield better results and make us more pleasant to work with.

There is one final, important reason to say no. When we are pulled in too many directions, burnout is inevitable. Psychology Today states,

Burnout can occur when you’re not in control of how you carry out your job.

Learning to say no puts you in control of your daily tasks and your productivity. Saying yes to everything your employer asks will eventually lead to you fizzling out – and that doesn’t do you or your boss any good. Make your work count, and when you can’t do the work, provide a reasonable and succinct explanation or solution:
Thank you for asking me about working on this social media project. I’m wrapped up in Project A right now, and it is demonstrating significant ROI for the company, so I’d like to continue my focus there. However, Jane has showed interest in social media. I think she’d be a great fit!

Saying no, providing an explanation for declining, and offering a solution provides a win-win situation for you, your boss, and in this case, even your co-worker.

Saying no teaches you to value and guard your time so you can use it wisely. It also allows you to take time for yourself to refresh, and keeps you from burning out. By saying no, you allow yourself the freedom to achieve your goals, reduce stress, and succeed.