Have you looked around recently and discovered too much on your plate? Worse yet, is your motivation to tackle your real passions flagging because of the nagging presence of all the things you don’t want to do? How did this happen? After all your career offers flexibility and choice. Likely you willingly said yes to most of those commitments that you now wish would disappear. Maybe you saw Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, and subconsciously linked her success as a comedian with accepting all opportunities at hand.

Why Did You Commit?

  • When you said yes, did the project seem interesting?
  • Did the opportunity look promising?
  • Did you genuinely want to help a friend or colleague?
  • Did the new assignment or position appear to fit perfectly with your passion or goals?
  • Did you imagine a shorter timetable for completion or far fewer unexpected challenges as it unfolded?
  • Did you simply feel obligated?

But hold on!! Enough Criticism

I don’t intend these questions as implications that only naive patsies say yes. Nor am I suggesting that stretching yourself or committing when outcomes are uncertain is foolish. Saying yes to opportunity, throwing in on a new project, and serving others are central to your personal and professional identity. If you long to make meaningful contributions in the world, commitment, and maybe even overcommitment, is in your DNA!

New opportunities fuel personal and professional growth. This growth then elevates you to a new platform from which greater opportunities emerge. Making commitments to those who have recognized your skills and invited you to partner with them is a beautiful thing! That kind of commitment builds relationships and valuable capital in your network. After all, we live in community and depend on each other. Moreover, you need to do your share of asking as well, depending on others to assist, commit and contribute.

But if you’re swimming in a sea of regret or looking for the time machine that can undo this mess, then the balance has been tipped in a counterproductive direction for you and all your outstanding commitments.

Guidelines for Deciding Between YES or NO

While there are no universal rules for finding your balance between when YES and when NO, these guidelines can help.

  1. Keep Score: You can always make a more informed choice when you know the score. Keep a running total of when you commit and when you decline.
  2. Gut Check: Am I responding from a place of excitement and connection or fear and obligation? Connect with Your Why: If you want to fill your time with the things that matter most to you then you need to get clear on what matters most. It might sound pie in the sky, but getting clear on your goals and values will offer you a tangible measure for considering new offers. If you’re interested in clarifying your Personal Values, give my Quick Guide a try.
  3. Is this opportunity aligned with my strengths? If no, nothing else needs to be said. Move on!
  4. Create a Waiting Period: Make it a policy to respond with, “Let me think about it.” Simply take the request under consideration and offer or request a deadline for the answer. This eases the pressure of the moment. Generally, you will benefit from building some sleep and emotional rest between the ask and answer. Of course, you can break this guideline if the gut check screams, “This is my big break!
  5. Take Action in the Waiting Period: Get busy reviewing the current projects you’ve previously given a YES. Remind yourself of your goals and values. Does this request fit? Answering this question becomes easier when these are written down and accessible.
  6. Strengthen Your Integrity with Yourself: If you find yourself overcommitted because you never want to disappoint anyone, this will be your MOST important guideline. Don’t let your workload become a measure of your likability. Instead, let your values, style, personality, experiences, and integrity determine if others like and respect you. You cannot control others’ opinions of you, but your opinion of yourself matters. Good news–you control that! No matter how much or how little you do, some people will still love you and some will not.

Benefits of Aligning YES and NO

When you say yes, implicitly you say no to other things. The wiser among us frequently and consistently say YES to health, family, recovery time, and sanity.

When you say no, you’re creating possibilities for something else.

Once you align your goals and values with your commitments, you begin to make room for what matters most to you.

One of my takeaways from Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is that her success and meaningful leaps came when she said “yes please” to the scary, difficult, and uncertain things. These drive growth! Don’t neglect to make room for these agents of change!

Photo by Christian Stahl on Unsplash