By: Maira Zamir, Peer Career Coach

When people are just starting to venture out into the professional World, they tend to say yes to everything. Please check this paper? Yes, that sounds intriguing! Please offer this presentation? Oh, yes, please! Serve on this time-consuming committee? Glad to support you! Whether triggered by a combination of curiosity about being a member of the profession or an aversion of letting people down, they simply do not know how to utter a single phrase, “No.”
In hindsight, saying yes to one thing has inevitably taken attention away from something—or someone else. The obligations blow up and increase the time required for key learning tasks, such as writing and mentoring. Being over-committed often causes a persistent state of tension. It’s a typical issue in academia: a desire to say yes to anything. Over time, this will lead to burnout, mental and physical health issues, and an ironic loss of bandwidth to say yes as more valuable prospects occur.

Here, we ask you to consider whether your workload threatens to compromise your professional and personal equilibrium and to follow constructive methods to help you balance your responsibilities.

When is it OK to say no:
We highly encourage that you get into the practice of being mindful of what invites you  say yes to, long before you get to the point of finishing your weekly schedule. You will achieve this by doing an informal cost-benefit review.
Start by asking yourself questions about the possible benefits: does this opportunity match with my priorities and values? How much am I going to learn? Will this opportunity build or improve valuable professional relationships? What is the possibility of developing more lucrative prospects in the future? How important is this task to me in person? 

Once you’re done, look closely at the advantages and disadvantages. If the research reveals that an operation will offer many advantages and little expenses, that should be the top contender for a yes answer. Conversely, low-benefit practices may be a clear no, even though they are also low-cost. In my experience, high-benefit, high-cost practices require the most thorough deliberation.

How to say no:
As you advance through your schooling and your profession, you will find that opportunities will grow. While some opportunities can be an absolute delight, saying yes to every one of them is not without some repercussions.

We advise you to do three things this year to refine your ‘no’ skills: make the effort to think carefully before saying ‘yes’ to requests; find advisors or colleagues who can help you weigh costs and benefits; and, ultimately, take a hard look at your current obligations to ensure that you leave the time you need to take care of yourself.

When and How to Say No in Professional Life