A Year of Saying No

One of my personal goals this year is to improve my focus.

However, I have an embarrassing confession to make:

I can’t say no.

Whenever I’m approached by a friend or a colleague to work on a side project, I’m usually pretty excited. I like helping people! Side projects are fun! But sometimes, I just don’t have time to give my full attention to another project. It’s at these moments that I experience a crippling sense of guilt. Saying “sorry, but I don’t have the extra time right now” becomes this huge, anxiety-producing task that I can spend hours stressing about afterwards. So most of the time, I say yes. And some of the time, saying yes means either doing the task half-heartedly, or sacrificing my actual job to work on something else for someone. Either way, I don’t perform well.

This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t feel this guilty about saying no. From a logical standpoint, I understand this. People will understand if I don’t have time. If I say yes and then can’t finish the project, or do a poor job, it’s honestly worse than just saying no in the first place. My brain understands this, but my heart doesn’t yet. So this year, I’m pledging to get over that, and to learn how to say no.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up on this wonderful aspect of the Automattic Creed:

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague [Full]

…It just means I’m going to learn when to say yes (and to what extent I can say yes to), and learn how to let go and say no, without feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. This does mean cutting down on projects for friends and colleagues, and even WP core. But only by learning how to say “no” can I gain a better sense of focus this year.

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One thought on “A Year of Saying No

  1. This said, part of me also worries about this:

    This is the sad reality in workplaces around the world: Women help more but benefit less from it. In keeping with deeply held gender stereotypes, we expect men to be ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal. When a man offers to help, we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? She wants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is “busy”; a woman is “selfish.”


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