Monday 30 July 2012

Learning How To Say No

Juggling six part-time jobs is an excellent lesson in time management. At the moment I'm working about 60 hours a week, and trying very hard to ensure that all those 60 hours' worth of work aren't asked of me on the same day.

You'd think, after learning to prioritise, the next hurdle in this almighty Rubik's cube of servitude would be learning to say "no, actually I don't have time to do this. I have to sleep/eat/have a life."

You'd think, wouldn't you.

Last week, I was just coming to the end of one working day and preparing to start the next when an email popped into my inbox asking me to complete an enormous assignment by the end of the weekend. A weekend I had promised myself would remain work-free, and had worked early mornings and late nights so far to ensure that it stayed so.

Regardless....I began panicking. Turning down the offer of money when you desperately need it is not easy. But I had told myself I wouldn't take on anything more. What would you advise a friend? I thought. This is definitely the right thing to do. I balanced against my mental health and I said no.


Sort of.

After sending the "no" email, I felt the following in quick succession: guilt, panic and an enormous sense of failure. This unholy trinity of unnecessary emotion proceeded to wash over me repeatedly until I had to leave the office and give myself a talking to. I was actually shaking. When I got back to my desk, an email had come back in with an deadline extension, and I was so relieved by my "reprieve" I said yes without even bothering to think through whether I'd be much better off.

The feelings of having let myself down went away.... now replaced by the steady hum of anxiety as I tried to work out how I was going to fit this in without working the whole weekend anyway. But the feelings of having let myself down went away.... and that did feel better. I felt like I was "being good" again. I genuinely think I have a problem.

I just wonder - does any of this ever go away? I have managed to develop a brain sensible enough to know when enough is enough, and yet when I do say no the emotional fallout is so pathetic I end up saying yes again anyway. Do we need another boring burnout with a nervous breakdown? How do you learn to say no and mean it? Where do you draw the line?


  1. I wish I could tell you, but I am absolutely no better than you at this. I have no ability to switch my mind off from the endless cycle of "if you don't achieve 110% every single day, you are failing". I'm better than I was, and all I can say is try to keep affirming to yourself that you are NOT failing. Try and have faith and confidence in yourself and your ability to say no, you are a person, you have the right to time off. Don't let yourself take that away from you (weird sentence construction aside). Also, timetables are your friends, schedule your days out and then do not work over or under the schedule, also schedule in free time and guard it with your life.

    Of course, all this is so much easier to say than to do.

    And on that note I'm off to continue berating myself into a thrilling anxiety spiral over taking 2 days off from my thesis this weekend.

    K x

    1. I took the weekend off too and it was ace....not relishing having a monster week this week to make up mind :( you should read the power of now! Im due a re-read..... Hippy stuff but it makes sense when you have crazybrains like ours.


  2. I am working on this but have not got there yet. I think it is all about being assertive - properly assertive where you value yourself and your priorities as much as the other person.

    I wish I was like M who makes a decision and then sticks with it (right or wrong) but I do get the guilt. I just have to stick it out through the guilt for now and hope the guilt eventually stops.