How to say no when the work needs to be done

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

workload Oh my goodness, how often do we hear this! Sometimes at work we feel overloaded. You may have the best time management system and organisational skills and then someone asks something of you left field and you stop what you’re doing and focus on the new task, to the detriment of your own work and your own wellbeing. Stress levels rise, resentment can set in and an immense feeling of people not appreciating you and what you are contributing.

So what can you do about it?

Let’s be honest, things coming in left field are not going to stop. That’s life so we must accept that, however, we can make things easier for ourselves.

1. Try not to have too much work you would class as both urgent and important. Although some people work best with tight deadlines, it leaves no space for the left field items. So, try to focus on the stuff that is important but not necessarily urgent…. yet. This releases the pressure should something come in last minute which means, you don’t have to say no because with a slight re-plan, there is time and space to complete the new task. Sounds simple and we may all know the theory, but to practice this takes discipline and motivation.

2. Be assertive and learn how to say ‘No’ or at least ‘not yet’. Communicate your workload. Once people are aware of your workload there is more chance of them understanding the pressure you are under. It might be they could approach someone else to help or renegotiate one of your other deadlines if their task is a priority. One thing is for sure, they are not a mind reader. If you don’t communicate how busy you are, they won’t necessarily know.

3. Delegate where possible. When we are busy, we can go into a tailspin and can’t see what work we could pass on to others. You may not feel you have time to delegate, it’s just easier and quicker to do it yourself. That may well be true, however in the longer term delegating will pay dividends, building the capability of other team members and delegating some of your tasks, creates the time and space for you to do some of the left field tasks which may in turn develop your capability – it’s a win/win.

These are just a few things you can try, If you would like to know more, contact us at or click here to see how coaching may help you to work through areas that might be getting in the way of you being our best.

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