Avoid Overcommitment With These Five Questions

Never having time to rest may seem like the new normal, leaving little time for reflection and recovery. But it can be difficult to say “no” without feeling guilty. These five questions can help you determine whether you truly have time to take on more work, or if it’s best to take a step back.

What’s Really Involved?

A simple request may not seem like a big deal, but it can quickly spiral into something bigger. Before you agree to take on a new task, get a clear sense of what it entails and how much time it will take — and remember that most projects take a bit more time than anticipated.

What’s the Cost of Saying Yes?

Sometimes agreeing to a new assignment means you’ll need to leverage more skills, resources, energy, and attention to get results. This may be acceptable, or it may be too much to manage. Be sure that you’re fully informed about what you’ll need to set yourself up for success before you agree to anything new.

Will Taking This on Serve My Mission?

Not everything you do will necessarily advance your greater purpose, but the majority of it should support your goals. Use this question as a way to filter out tasks that aren’t urgent and don’t matter in the grand scheme of your career objectives.

Is This on My To-Don’t List?

Even if you’ve drawn a line and told yourself that certain work is off limits, it’s possible to get stuck with it anyway. Be aware of what you don’t want to do and why — perhaps it’s the cost to your emotions, energy, or schedule — and check in with yourself regularly to make sure you’re not signing on for something you’d rather avoid.

Can I Give a Different Yes?

Yes and no aren’t your only available answers. You may be able to make a compromise, supporting your colleague in a way that meets their needs without sacrificing your own. Consider alternatives before making a decision, and maybe everyone can win.

For more information about how to choose your commitments carefully, please read “Before You Say 'Yes' and Overcommit Again, Ask Yourself 5 Questions” in Inc.