October 26, 2010

Say Yes to Everything? No thanks.

I'm back today after a little hiatus from this blog to take opposition to something you hear a lot of people say in terms of getting ahead - say yes to every opportunity that comes your way... I've heard it over and over and agreed with it for a long time. It got so bad that contrary to most people where "THE" is their most used word, I sometimes think that "YES" is mine...

Now, in certain instances, I think saying yes to everything makes sense. To someone who's just getting out of school and needs to make an impression on their new boss, saying yes to every opportunity to make that impression makes sense. In fact, in a story that we did in our about to be released magazine at my organization, one of our members who is giving advice to our undergraduates says, "Say “Yes” to everything, no matter how menial the task. If you complete it quicker than expected and better than expected, the requests from others will increase and your credibility will rise."

I agree for the most part to his analysis.

But here's where I disagree: what if you say yes to so many things that you don't get things done quicker and better than expected? What if by saying yes to everything, you actually stretch yourself too thin and aren't able to be the best professional you can be?

Not only that, but as someone who is now pretty established in my career and who is craving work-life balance, I think this advice to say yes to everything is flawed. As I said earlier, I have been saying yes to just about everything for a long time.

Because of this, I'm now serving on four committees for professional development and volunteer organizations, each with its own conference call and other responsibilities. I'm someone who likes to be involved and be seen as a leader in a lot of different things, and I don't want this to seem like I don't appreciate the opportunities to lead. However, saying yes to all of these things has really cramped my ability to be the best volunteer, employee, husband, and soon-to-be father that I can be... It's time for me to step back and learn how to say no.

So I guess if an undergraduate asked me what my advice would be to them, I'd say "Don't be afraid to say yes often, but learn how to say no, now. You can thank me later."

Thanks as always for reading. I hope you'll add your thoughts to the comments...