It is hard enough to say no in your personal life. It is even harder to say no in your professional life. Want to get clear about what you should be saying no to in the work place? Consider these four principles.
Know Your Mission.
Many of the Passion. Purpose. Plunge retreats that I facilitate have some sort of professional element to them. Perhaps someone is in a place of transition and wants to figure out the natural next steps or maybe someone is self-employed and wants to fine tune their focus or processes. While I am no business coach, I am a pretty good concept and creative strategist, and one of the things that I am finding as a very important first step is getting my clients- especially those who are self-employed- to write a mission statement.
I know, I know.
A mission statement sounds like a drag and so very Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And it does because, well, it is. Having a mission statement helps to make things clear. When you define what it is that you want to be doing as your mission, it becomes a fabulous barometer for whether or not you should say yes to something. Now, I am not saying that you can only do things that are within your mission statement all the time but I am saying that having a mission statement makes things SO much more clear.
Mission statements allow you to voice what you want for yourself professionally, how you want to do that work and/or why it matters to you, and the change you want to manifest in the world. And if you refer to it often, it helps you become clear about what work, projects you should take and which ones you shouldn’t.
I have used many different formulas over the years to write my mission statements. In fact, you can see some past mission statements here. Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, really does have a good system. A life coach that I know, Nicole Greer, suggests a one sentence formulate made up of an identifying core value (something that is most important to you), what you innately do (describing it in three verbs) and identifying “who you are most meant to serve in this world.
The fact is that you would never drive to a totally new place without some directions, a road map, or a compass. A mission statement gives you that direction. So take the time to write one; especially if you are self-employed. It will give you good direction when an opportunity comes knocking at your door and you don’t know whether or not it is a fit.
Want to know my current mission statement?
Rosie Molinary empowers women to embrace their authentic selves so they can live their passion and purpose and give their gifts to the world.
Honor Your Rhythm
Figure out what you most need to be successful professionally and honor it. In my last traditional job, I realized that I really needed quiet time at the start of the day, but I worked in a highly social (awesome!) office and so I started to get to work 30 minutes before everyone else did so that I could get that quiet time to empty out my inbox from the night before, plan for the day, and do any prep work. That way, when my very fun coworkers arrived, I could chat with them without worrying about what was piling up in my inbox.
I bring this up now because that move was really about honoring my best work rhythm and, thus, it helped me manage my work stress. Take some time to figure out what you need to get good work done. For me, now, I need Mondays to be as free as often as possible and rooted at my desk. It takes all week, if at all, for me to recover if my Monday is back to back to back meetings. So, now I try to block off my Mondays and am very protective about that time. Because I know my rhythm, I know that giving away my Mondays is a no that I need to give.
Honor Your Values
I value doing meaningful, high impact work that inspires women to live their passion and purpose and give their gifts and talents to the world. But I also value being with my family to have adventures, just relish in love, and even work through the occasional squabble. If I don’t create structure, then my schedule gets all over the place and I look up and realize that my values have been neglected. So, there are several ways you can respect your values by saying yes or no at work.
Come up with parameters.
I am asked to do a lot of pro-bono work. And I do reserve some time in my schedule for pro-bono work as that honors my values but there are some areas where I try not to give my time away. It is incredibly rare that I will miss 2 nights of bedtime in a “school” week. Routine is good for my family- from family dinners to our bedtime rituals, etc- and I don’t want to casually disrupt that. So I don’t work two nights in a week and I also don’t do book club and work in the same week, for example. Max: 1 night away a week. And I even tell that to people when they ask. Thanks so much for the invitation, but I have made a personal commitment to not miss more than one bedtime a week and so I am not able to be with you for X as I already have a commitment that will take me away from the home for bedtime one night that week.
In addition, I was once asked to do pro-bono work at a time where I would need to hire a sitter. I was happy to do the workshop but just couldn’t reconcile paying $50 to do the pro-bono work and so I let the inviter know that I would be happy to do it, I would be honored to do it but we needed to do it a time where I wouldn’t have to hire a sitter. They readily agreed and changed the time.
Another way that I honor my values is that I don’t give away work on the weekend. If I am going to miss family time on the weekend for something related to work, I like to have it pay or have the potential for positive future earnings. Otherwise, weekends are for my volunteer commitments and for quality, distilled family time.
What parameters will allow you to embrace your values?
Honor Your Time
I recently asked a friend, “What do you want to be doing less?”
“Going to ‘can I pick your brain’ coffees!” She answered pretty quickly. And she is not alone; I actually have heard this a lot from my self-employed buds. And they are torn- so, so torn- because they want to be helpful, they want to be supportive, but they can’t lose the work hours! So how do you say no in these situations?! Try these options.
Write an everything you wanted to know about what I do and how I do it blog post (or series of blog posts) and direct coffee inviters there.
Schedule one two hour block a month for those inquiries. Direct the inquisitor to that day, time. If that works for them, great, they can have a 30 minute spot. If not, maybe next time.
Do a phone call instead of meeting in person and give the phone call time parameters (I can give you 30 minutes on Tuesday morning).
Basically, the concept here is that you do not have to be available all the time for people’s inquiries. You can put parameters to it and have it allow you to be generous and kind while honoring the time you have available.
In addition, you can try these options.
Make and keep room for yourself.
A few weeks ago, I talked about my need to actually create space in my calendar– to unschedule myself rather than schedule myself more. Putting unscheduled days (which doesn’t mean that I don’t work, it simply means that I do not schedule meetings on those days) really helps me be more efficient on my work days (since I live outside the city, I often lose an hour to driving to a meeting which means that a one hour meeting actually takes me two) and allows me to really get into the zone for some projects. And the zone is where the really good work stuff happens and so I need to make sure that I make room for that!
I do most of my own stuff but let me tell you one thing that I do not do: my own web overhauling. If I need a page added to my website, I could do it (badly) but the time and energy suck that it would be is just not worth it to me so I hire out. And it is not just with web-stuff that I delegate. My husband and I each divide up tasks based on what we either have no business doing or desire to do, my siblings and I do, too, and it even happens on committees that I am on. It’s a smart practice because it allows most people to work more in their zone.
Use Your Out of Office Message
I get a lot of email in a day. Probably more than 100 emails fly in and out of inbox in a day. And the idea of people having to wait to hear from me to move forward really stresses me out (because I am worried that I am stressing them out!), but sometimes I am in meetings back to back and just don’t have email time or I am elbow deep in grading and have my inbox off. So many of us are used to only using our out of office message if we are actually traveling but I say use it to let people know that you are in deep and might need extra time to respond. This has been a really great tool for me for settling my stress level during already stressful times.
Can you see any of these suggestions working for you? What do you do to manage your nos at work?