I want to try to codify a few things I’ve been learning in the process of streamlining my schedule on the home stretch of my PhD. Recently I’ve been trying to incorporate a new practice: not only saying more to no things, but…
Saying no faster.
In the past, I have developed a habit of either not responding or loosely responding to requests for my time or attention. Why? Because directly saying no to people is uncomfortable. I may end up doing some things because I feel obligated, or weaseling my way out of a pseudo-commitment—perhaps where I expressed an interest but my involvement was never clearly agreed upon.
These situations are unproductive for me and the other people involved. I accrue expectational debt, the other party may be counting on me for something, and it’s poor character for me to pull out. Stress and guilt abound.
All that to say: I’ve been trying to be more honest when people make requests of me. I have adopted a difficult work/family schedule during the final push of graduate school, with limited opportunities for deviation. When a request comes along, I evaluate it according to what my wife and I have agreed are our priorities for this season, and if it doesn’t fit, I try to tell the other party ASAP that as much as I would love to XYZ, it’s simply impossible.
I feel much better and it’s more honoring to other people.
And of course, there will always be people in my life that I will drop absolutely anything for at the drop of a hat, but that’s not really what this post is about.