This is How to Say “No” When You’re Tapped Out


Few of us are unfamiliar with the reality of biting off more than we can chew. But when an overly-ambitious to-do list starts to feel more like a regularity than it does a once-in-a-while thing, it might be time to take a step back and think about how to knock down your work load. And that, for a lot of us, starts with learning how to say one simple word: No. Prevent yourself from overloading your schedule and taking on too many commitments by following these simple tips on how to say “no” – even (or maybe especially) if you’ve got an obliger personality.

Be realistic with yourself.

It’s hard to convince someone else that you’re not ready to take on any new tasks if you’re hardly convinced of that fact yourself. When you know your schedule is already pretty busy, take a moment before agreeing to anything else to assess your time and priorities realistically. That means, in addition to making note of all the assignments or projects you need to finish at work, recognizing things that you’re not willing to sacrifice right now to free up time for new projects. That might be something as simple as a nightly gym session, or the hour you like to keep blocked off for your favorite show after a jam-packed day. Once you’ve laid it all down, if you find that it will be tough to squeeze in anything new at the moment, it’s fine to say “no.”

Be honest with the other person.

While the guilt of turning down a request to help someone out with something may make you feel like you need to come up with a good excuse to get around it, it really is true that honesty is the best policy. Whether it’s a busy schedule or just a lack of brainpower, be totally honest with the other person about why you can’t really take on their project at the moment. Tell them you’re really swamped at work, or that you’ve been juggling too many things and don’t think you can commit to anything else right now. Remember that saying “no” in the interest of your time, priorities, and mental wellbeing is never something you should feel the need to justify.

Say “no” sooner rather than later.

The guilt of saying “no” to someone can also come with a tendency to postpone saying “no” to avoid the awkward rejection. But keep in mind that the longer you wait to tell the other person you can’t help them out, the more of an issue it might be. After all, if they’re holding out hope that you might give them a helping hand, there’s a big chance that they won’t ask anyone else to help them out. Then, by the time you finally muster up the nerve to say “no,” it might be too late for them to find another solution. Be upfront to prevent yourself and the other person from ending up in tight spot.

Add some value to your “no.”

Saying “no” to someone doesn’t mean that you have to offer no help at all. Instead, give your rejection a little bit of value by adding some advice on how to proceed without your help, or by offering the name of someone else who might be able to help out with the task. By proving some resources along with your “no,” you still leave the other person with a bit of actionable information that will make it easier for them to get the task done.

Remind yourself that this isn’t just about you.

While saying “no” to someone in the interest of your own schedule and energy may feel a bit selfish, it always helps to remind yourself that you’re doing the other person a favor by turning them down, too. After all, that person deserves to have somebody who will do their best work for them. If you know that you’re other commitments will make it just about impossible to offer anything short of your best quality work, then you owe it to the person on the receiving end of the request to let them know you’re not the person for the job – at least not this time around.

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