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One of the main barriers to effective time management, and one that can lead to high levels of stress, is the volume of work and tasks that we have to manage on a day-to-day basis.

If we then have tasks that are piled onto our existing schedule by our boss, it can be very difficult to manage. So just say “NO”!

With that last statement, I can almost hear you saying, “Yeah, easier said than done – you can’t say no to your boss” and get away with it!

But of course you can! There are techniques to avoid what I call the “Samaritan Syndrome”.

You get the picture, it may even be you. You’re working on a task and your boss asks to you to do another job, this will only take 5 minutes – yeah, right!

I’m sure there are many of us that know this all too well. So, naturally you say yes, after all it was your boss who asked, so they must be obeyed.

Most of us are hard-wired to be compliant and accept, even against our own better judgement, tasks that are given from above, so to speak.

Saying “no” is akin to be militant, difficult or uncooperative, isn’t it?

Well to an extent, yes. But at the end of the day, who suffers, and what suffers?

The answer to this is a well known one, generally it is us who suffer and the work that we produce too.

We take on too much, sometimes taking work home to finish, so it encroaches on our family and social lives.

The working day is not that elastic – there are things that will give, and generally taking too much on, leads to poor results in terms of the work produced.

So we accept, take on more and more work – produce poorer quality work and don’t feel that great about the stress of all this extra work nor on the quality of what we produce.

Saying, “No” is not easy – until we are well versed in HOW to do it and WHY we are doing it.

It can be difficult in terms of the behaviors we perceive are acceptable to others, because of our place in the organisational hierarchy and sometimes due to complexities in relationships (boss/staff, supplier/client etc.).In communication when faced with a difficult or potentially conflictual situation – saying “No” could be this – we have two options, fight or flight.

That is we can contest and say “no” or run away by just saying “yes” to everything that is asked of us. No correction, we have a third option, being assertive.

Being assertive is not being conflictual nor aggressive nor pushing our will or opinion on others. Being assertive is being genuine and honest and allowing choice to the other party in a communication situation.

In fact, the easiest way to say “NO” is by saying “YES” but conditionally – and by exploring options.

So imagine, your boss asks you at 16h00 to get a 50 slide Powerpoint ready for the end of the day – if you automatically say “yes” you are going to be in difficulty and as you agree, the thought of this will be going around in your head.

But, if you get to the real needs of your boss here and suggest options then life could suddenly become a lot easier – for both of you!OK, he asks for the Powerpoint to be ready by the end of the day, why?

Imagine the following dialogue:

Fred, can you get this Powerpoint presentation ready for me by the end of the day, please?John, Yes, but I’ve also got to have the sales figures finalised by 18h00 – when is your presentation?Fred, Tomorrow evening at the sales conference.John, So if you have them by midday that would be in good enough time.

Fred, yes, but I’d like to have a read through this evening.

John, OK, but the sales figures also need to be in by tonight. Can you then tell me which takes priority?

Fred, Well both, I really would like them by tonight.

John, So if I get them to you by 20h00, would that be workable?

Fred, Yes, 20h00 would be great.

John, OK, I’ll make sure you get them by working over tonight a couple of hours – If I do this can I come in later tomorrow? I can then take the kids to school.

Fred, Yes, that would be fine.

Ok, not everything would turn out this way, but you can be sure that the person who gives you last-minute jobs will think twice before just dumping them on you.

Another point is that by agreeing – conditionally, you are not refusing hands-down, but showing a willingness to find a solution, whilst preserving your sanity.

By saying yes, conditionally, you are also able to smoke-out those who are likely to put on you unnecessarily.

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