These 5 Work Habits Are Holding You Back! How to Say No
We care about our work. We are the proud, huddled masses (huddled in front of our computers, that is) who use our free time to read blogs, listen to podcasts, and search for whatever else will make us better at our careers. The dedication is there. What happened to balancing work and family? In all of our well-intentioned professional development, we still have not mastered the art of saying no– or at least of saying no and not feeling like a complete jerk for doing so.
We know we deserve more recognition, higher pay, and above all, not to feel guilty about it. And yes, there are factors beyond our immediate control– but there are also some habits you can choose to say no to every day that make a huge, noticeable impact.
What am I talking about?
I’m referring to the little choices we make on a daily basis in our work lives that hold us back and stress us out. The incessant emails we grudgingly reply to, despite their lack of importance, because we want to be helpful and accommodating. The lunch hours we work through because asking for help would mean interrupting someone else’s schedule. You can chalk it up to perseverance and a rare work ethic, or you can come to terms with how stressful it can be to put your foot down and refuse.
I won’t tell you it’s not. I will, however, tell you how you can say no to five of these common work habits without any need to feel guilty, selfish, or GASP! “mean.”
1. Working Yourself to Exhaustion
One of the biggest risks of enjoying work is letting that ability to work harder and longer than other people be taken advantage of. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should– a phrase to remember the next time you have to decide between staying late on a Friday or spending time with your kids.
Maybe you don’t even realize you’re taking on too much at once, and that’s something we can fix. The key to gauging your work limits is getting organized ahead of time. Instead of accepting every extra project that comes your way and realizing later on that you don’t have room for it in your schedule, plan out what you need to accomplish this week so you can see what you have time for. Set a measurable work goal for each day, and allow yourself to go home and reset once you complete it. You can say no to working overtime, even when you have to say it to yourself.
2. Answering Every Call & Email
Technology is supposed to make communication more convenient and more readily available, and I think that has subconsciously carried over into us thinking that we have to be readily available anytime our iPhones buzz, ping, and light up. Instant communication is an option, not a mandate! It’s a little insane how much power that little red notification over my inbox icon has! But hey, you’re not Siri and you’re not a concierge. Unless it’s your kids calling, you can let voicemail serve its purpose until you have time to respond. Sometimes I think that making myself available to every text, email, Facetime, G Chat, Skype, etc. will make me seem like I’m completely on top of my stuff– but I’ve found it’s better to finish the task at hand and respond when I can devote my full focus to the conversation. Besides, you set the tone for how others will contact you. Answering every call and email right away may cause your coworkers to expect that kind of immediate response every time!
If you feel obligated, there are so many explanations you can give as to why you weren’t available right at that moment, from being on another call to being so wrapped up in a project that you didn’t notice the notification right away. But when it comes to the not-so-pressing messages, you don’t owe anyone an excuse for having other priorities.
3. Discounting Your Services
Money is a sensitive topic for many people, but you can’t be sensitive about your worth or your livelihood. Payment is a part of doing business, so don’t be nervous to bring it up to your employer. They know you are working in exchange for a profit, but they may not realize you’re unhappy with the size of that profit. If your time and effort aren’t being accurately or satisfactorily compensated, what’s stopping you from negotiating a raise? Maybe you’re worried you’ll seem greedy or be turned down– but it’s more likely that you’ll be respected. It shows you feel confident, value your work, and you’re not afraid to make sure your client or employer values it fairly too.
Decide on a figure that makes sense for your time+the raw materials+your experience level and consider that against the going rate for that service/product. That way, you don’t start deducting and adjusting based on how much you like the client or what their budget is, and you have a logical breakdown to explain that you didn’t just pluck a price out of nowhere.
4. Not Asking For Help
I’ll be the first one to admit guilt with this one. I just don’t like the feeling of realizing I can’t always do everything myself. It turns out, the feeling of being so overwhelmed and helpless because I should’ve asked for help is way worse. Don’t let your pride get in the way of progress! You won’t seem weak for asking a coworker to lend you a hand on an assignment– it’s just the opposite. You’ll seem resourceful and insightful for knowing when you’re in over your head. Sure, you could let yourself struggle through it on your own… but that means taking longer to get to the finished product. If you work with a team, the beauty of that is being able to reach out to the other team members when you need to.
5. Being Late
Despite what you might think, being late is not an irreversible character trait. You weren’t born with an inability to get to work on time! Even if your boss hasn’t commented on this little habit, being late means not getting started on time, which means not getting as much done as you’d like to or need to… and inevitably working later into the evening to finish your tasks. It’s a slippery slope, and a habit that becomes harder to correct the longer you let yourself feel okay with it. In truth, you’re holding yourself back. So start saying no by packing yourself up the night before, waking up a little earlier, and leaving the house with more time than you need.