Don’t train others to think you have limitless energy!🏃
One of my jobs as a teenager was working in a 1950s-style diner, and I’ll never forget my coworker Liz.
A tireless waitress who always had two large, steaming coffee pots in one hand and a tray of food and drinks in the other (I’m not exaggerating!).
Liz was the embodiment of an overachiever and I admired her hustle.
When I moved into the corporate milieu, I felt I had to be the corporate version of Liz. I’d freely take on anything colleagues added to my workload, seeing it as a challenge to overcome.
I wanted to be indispensable and excellent at everything!
It wasn’t until one day, at the end of a 70-hour work week, that I came to the crushing realization that I didn’t feel excellent at anything. I had become a jack of all trades but master of none, plus unhappy and stressed out.
Can you relate?
The thing is, taking on too many projects, making commitments, and accepting extra work all in the name of being a Liz-like “team player” is not only energy-draining and time-consuming, but it’s unsustainable.
It’s also hard to perform remarkably when trying to give your best energy to too many assignments. Trying to “do it all” while ignoring your own boundaries is a surefire way to burn out.
That’s why I want to introduce you to two concepts you can apply to your interactions with others, to avoid being a full-time “yes” person. I also have a wellness tip that will keep you productive – regardless of your workload.
These techniques will help you negotiate deadlines and deliver "yeses" and "no's" with more backbone and confidence!
Quick Confidence Tips For Retraining Colleagues to Respect Boundaries:
Interpersonal: Limit choices a/k/a “The red shoes or gray shoes” technique. The paradox of having loads of choices is that faced with too many options, the average person experiences more anxiety than if they had less to choose from. Too many choices tend to make people feel worse! That’s why rather than taking an “always open” approach to accepting work or saying yes to people’s demands, I want you to consider limiting the choices available to them. Think about it: if a kid is going out to play, we might say, “do you want to wear your red shoes or your gray shoes?” Both shoes are suitable for playing and the kid gets to make the final choice. In a similar way, how can you start making a limited-option offering to someone making demands on your time? That way, if someone says to you, “I have an urgent situation I need your help with,” you could say: “I’d be glad to find a way to help you out. I can either drop the X project and work on this urgent need or I could continue working on the X project and see if Lisa can help you.”
Mindset: Be selectively excellent. Just like a successful business, you need to choose where you want to be particularly innovative or differentiated. So rather than trying to win at every project you touch, I want you to think about the 1-2 areas you really want to be defined by, as a professional. Is it strategic thinking? Finance skills? Tech brilliance? Nonprofit management? Mentoring junior teammates? Now, taking those areas into account, how could you make exceptions to give more to those things and to give less to others? This way, you’re lining up your discretionary effort with your distinct value. The more you identify these areas, aligning them with your time and energy investment, the more you can negotiate happier outcomes with people making demands on your time. This could sound like: “I’d be totally willing to work on ABC presentation and get it done by 5pm, but can I look to someone else to help out with XYZ report?”
Embodied: Take regular, small breaks. This tip is for everyone. Whether you haven’t been able to retrain people to respect your time, or if you have boundaries down to a science, we all still want to be as productive as possible. So, when you’re in the middle of a productive period, anticipating an upcoming break can be an incentive to complete your task. But taking breaks can also clear and sharpen your mind. These micro-breaks – defined as being 30 seconds to 5 minutes long – should not be work-related. You can get up and walk around, visit a colleague, or stretch in your chair. Or if you’re like me, you can go and find your next snack. Breaks don’t just feel good, they actually reboot your brain. Just one break improves your mental acuity by 13%! So don’t feel guilty about taking breaks, it actually helps you to be more productive.
Try out these strategies, and as you do, you'll notice that you’re no longer jumping to say a blanket “Yes” or offering an all-access pass to your energy ‘til the end of time.
By giving people clear choices you get to frame the possibilities and preferred approach which allows you to sustain yourself along the way.
Do you struggle with saying “no” to tasks delegated to you even when you have too much on your plate? Or maybe you’re a recovering overachiever (like me!), in which case how do you now get colleagues to respect your time and energy? Tell us all about it in the comments!