NO is not a four-letter word! Responding to stressful times.

Ask Roxanne!

Dear Roxanne,

I’m seriously losing it. Our staff has been reduced again, and I’m taking on more and more. I feel like the boss is counting on me, but I have never had so many plates spinning at once, and a crash is inevitable. What can I do?—Kristina W.

Dear Kristina,

Stop treating yourself like a machine, that’s what. Working hard is a terrific thing, but the human mind and body have limits. If you push yourself beyond those limits for too long, it becomes counterproductive. You’ve got to learn how to say no, both for your sake and for the sake of the work. I’ve written this week’s article for you. Please let me know if it’s helpful!—Roxanne

NO is not a four-letter word!

How are you responding to these stressful times? Feeling frazzled? Going to bed a little later and getting up a little earlier? Eating lunch at your desk?

If your intention is to strengthen your job security as layoffs happen all around you—you just might want to reconsider that six-cylinder, 24/7 strategy. It’s counterproductive. And the best skill you can develop is the ability to say NO.

Overstressed employees are less engaged, less focused, and less vision-driven. This hurts customer service, which in turn hurts everything. Stressed employees are also more likely to get sick, lose sleep, and develop dysfunctional behaviors, all of which further hurts productivity.

Martin Luther once said, “I generally pray for two hours every day, except on very busy and demanding days. On those days, I pray three.”

Productivity WINS and the bottom line WINS and quality goes UP when employees are happy, rested, and well cared for. We need to say, “In normal times, I get seven hours’ sleep each night. But during busy and demanding weeks, I get eight.” It makes sense, and it works.

Want to improve the quality of your work, boost your productivity, impress the boss? Become a well-oiled machine, not an overheated engine. Here’s how:

  • First and foremost, take responsibility for your physical and emotional health. Get rest, eat right, and exercise. If you see a frazzled, sleep-deprived face in the mirror, consider it not as a badge of honor but as a failure to maximize your abilities by taking proper care of yourself.
  • Fully show up wherever you are. When you’re at work, be at work, 100 percent. When you’re at home, be at home. Both work and home will benefit from your full attention.
  • Set limits on work done at home. Sometimes bringing work home is unavoidable, and that’s fine. But when it becomes a norm to work through the evening, you are sapping your energy and reducing your productivity.
  • Share your planned limits with those around you. If you’ve decided not to work after 7 pm, tell your wife or husband and the kids. They’ll hold you to it.
  • Build non-negotiable breaks into your workday. I’m talking about real breaks. Eating lunch at your desk does NOT count. Reading spreadsheets in the break room does NOT count. Get away and recharge your battery.
  • Learn when to say no. Overcommitment destroys productivity. Stop seeing it as a virtue. It’s a failure of personal quality control.

One of the keys to all this is silencing the nagging voice in our heads—the one that says “no pain, no gain,” that tells you working more and harder and longer with fewer breaks and less sleep will make you better and more productive. It’s NONSENSE.

Run a car’s engine in high gear for hours and you’ll end up with a pile of junk. Why would running a human being be any different?

Getting serious about gearing down

  1. Every Monday morning, write down every obligation for the week.
  2. Put an X by those that can wait until next week.
  3. Circle those that can be delegated (and delegate them).
  4. Cross out those that don’t really need to be done.
  5. Set aside genuine down time twice a day.
  6. Watch your productivity skyrocket!

Quick tip

Overcommitment is NOT a badge of honor. Make a pledge to go one entire day without saying how busy you are.

Leave a Reply