Saying No

The Importance of Saying No

Saying NoI recently wrote a post on the power of saying yes. My goal was to emphasize the value that stems from your willingness to stretch the limits of your comfort zone and try something new. Unless you’re open to new experiences and opportunities, you won’t grow and advance your career.

This week, I am focusing on the opposite – the importance of saying no. Too often we say yes to activities that don’t serve us well. This leaves us with insufficient time and energy for more strategic efforts.

If you’re like many of the professionals I speak with regularly, you’re overwhelmed by your workload. But it’s not helping you to achieve your career goals. It might even be working against you.

There is a significant difference between being busy and being productive. Many of us are incredibly busy, but not often very productive. To achieve your career goals, you need to be focused on activity that directly furthers those goals. Ask yourself, how much of your day-to-day work is helping you to take your career to the next level?

Here are 3 ways your inability to say no is undermining your career advancement efforts.

1. You’re stuck in your comfort zone.

When you do something well, it’s easy to confuse activity with productivity. It feels good to be competent. But if you’re spending all of your time doing work that doesn’t challenge you, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re not advancing your career.

What to do:

Take a look at your current workload and determine how much of your work is familiar, unchallenging, or tedious. Then consider how you might delegate some of this work to others. Are there junior colleagues that are interested in learning more about your role? Are there new employees that can take on these activities as a way to acclimate to their new environment? Are there administrative support resources that can perform some of these tasks?

2. You’re uncomfortable pushing back.

This is a common challenge for many of us. If you’re a pleaser by nature, you do what’s asked of you because you don’t want to let others down. By now, you’ve set a precedent. Others have come to expect that they can rely on you for support, even if it doesn’t serve you.

What to do:

You can say no to others and still be supportive. If someone asks you to engage in work that is not strategic to your efforts, offer to help them find a more appropriate resource to support their needs. Or be honest about the fact that, while you’d love to help, you don’t have the bandwidth to add any additional responsibilities to your plate.

3. You’re unclear about your goals.

You lack clarity about what you want from your work so you can’t be selective about what you take on. If you don’t know which efforts will best serve you, you can’t be strategic about the choices you make. You remain stuck in a trial and error pattern, hoping that eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for.

What to do:

Take a step back and reflect on what’s next. It’s very challenging to find time for self-reflection during the typical daily grind. But if you don’t prioritize this, you’ll never break out of this vicious cycle. Schedule time on your calendar to consider bigger questions about yourself and your career goals. If you struggle to do this on your own, find a support resource, such as a career coach, counselor, or mentor to guide you.

Until you break free from the endless tasks that are weighing you down, you’ll never be in a position to attract and embrace new challenges that will support your professional growth.

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