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Prioritize and Say “No”

Categorize tasks using the Covey Time Management MatrixCovey Matrix

Ask these 3 questions (adapted from this awesome Rebel EM post on time management)

  1. Do I really enjoy this activity?
  2. Will this activity help my career, my department, the greater community?
  3. Will I get something out of this activity (eg joy, time, money, advancement, networking)

Say “No” to Not Important on Covey matrix, or not at least 2 of 3 of the above

When to say “No”

  1. Remember that saying “Yes” to something always means saying “No” to something else (like time spent with family, working on your grant, self-care, sleep) – amount of time is finite
  2. Discuss with your mentor: when the cost (time) – benefit (to career) ratio is not favorable
  3. When it adds to the wrong circle in the Covey matrix
  4. When you know you won’t be able to meet the deadline
  5. When it’s really not in your wheelhouse
  6. When it doesn’t meet a pre-defined list of needs / wants / acceptance criteria
  7. When weighing the “yes to stress” ratio yields more stress than yes

How to say “No”

  1. Good cop, Bad cop: use your mentor, boss, spouse, etc. as the “reason” you can’t
  2. No, but yes: offer to do something lesser, in the future, or a portion of the activity instead
  3. No sandwich (+/-/+): “Thank you so much for thinking of me, Unfortunately I just don’t have the bandwidth right now, But I’d love to collaborate in the future”
  4. If you panic, buy some time, but in general it’s best to just say “No” quickly & firmly
  5. Have a stock excuse ready to go that you always use
  6. Pass the buck – suggest someone else who might be able/willing to do it (but only if you think they really might be interested / would benefit from the opportunity)