Saying no

I was talking with a friend, recently, who was feeling very overwhelmed by the many responsibilities on her plate. This friend was feeling conflicted because people kept asking her to do more (often presented as a great opportunity), and she really felt that she couldn’t take on any more responsibilities. However, she also didn’t want to come across as difficult by saying no (and she definitely didn’t want to disappoint these people by saying yes and then doing a half-hearted job).

Of course, my friend shouldn’t have to worry about coming across as difficult for standing up for herself, but that is a whole other discussion. In the meantime, I shared with her some advice that I had come across, several years ago, and which I have found very useful in my own career:

More broadly, it is also important to recognise the opportunity cost of adding things to your To Do list, and to prioritise work that is important to you. I have been thinking about this, a lot, since reading the book “Four Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Burkeman.

We only have about 4,000 weeks in our lives (in fact, a lot less by the time we get to read this book). Confronting that we have limited time to address a limitless (and ever growing) To Do list is… anxiety-inducing. Burkeman explores what this finitude means for how we see leisure and relaxation, focus, fear of missing out, and so on. He writes “You have to accept that there will always be too much to do; that you can’t avoid tough choices or make the world run at your preferred speed.” But that, he adds, is “a cause for relief. You get to give up on something that was always impossible – the quest to become the optimised, infinitely capable, emotionally invincible, fully Independent person you’re officially supposed to be.

This Google talk will give you an idea of the book’s message:

Leaving this here, in case it is useful to you or someone you know.

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