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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

3 Powerful Reasons to Say "No" to Your Boss and Co-workers

In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves constantly oversubscribing to too many things at work. After all, who wants to be the lazy person who says no to an exciting new project or a chance to show the higher-ups how awesome you are?

However, taking on too much has its drawbacks, from getting way less sleep and being utterly unmotivated to experiencing debilitating headaches and becoming generally irritable and unhappy. What’s a hard-working professional to do?

To challenge the desire to say yes to everything, the team at Fast Company tested what it would be like to say no to everything for one week. Sounds impossible, right?

Turns out, no. And while it may be hard to shut down everything for an extended period of time (hey, sometimes it’s okay to be a little busy), the Fast Company team learned a thing or two about why it’s valuable to do once in a while. Here are some great reasons why saying no more often is smart when it comes to your career.

1. It Gives You Time to Do Things You Actually Like

The best thing about saying no is that it leaves room for you to do plenty of other things that you really like doing. A lot of times at work, we take on projects we aren’t particularly interested in just to prove that we’re a superhero who can do it all. But sometimes it’s better to hang back and do things you actually like doing—or the things that will actually help you get ahead.

So the next time you’re asked to help with a completely optional project that doesn’t really interest you, feel free to take a pass. It’ll make the rest of your work better, allow someone else the opportunity to engage in a new assignment, and leave you the space to pick up something that really matters.

2. It Keeps You From Complete Burnout Mode

I’ll be honest here: I decided not to attend a Google Hangout last week so that I could watch the latest episode of The Mindy Project. Why? For one thing, I was only going to be attending the meeting to be nice (I wasn’t really interested in what was happening). Additionally, I was coming off of a very long and difficult couple of days and just needed a break.

Did I make the right decision? Heck yes. Not only was that episode of The Mindy Project hilarious, but I also shut off all of my devices to watch it, went to bed early, and felt extremely refreshed the next morning. Better than staying up late to do something unimportant that wouldn’t affect my career? Definitely.

Above all, remember that taking a break isn’t a bad thing, and some time off now could mean that you’re able to do more and go further later on. As Kristin Muhlner, CEO of NewBrand Analytics and the inspiration for Fast Company’s challenge, says, it’s all about finding “a ruthless discipline” to only do things that make you feel happy and fulfilled.

3. It Makes Your Time More Valuable

One of the most important things about being able to say no is that it allows you to show yourself and others that your time is crucial—and not to be wasted. If you become that person in the office who always says yes, it’s easy to be seen as the pushover everyone can go to when they’re in hot water. And while that can be a great feeling, it can also be incredibly exhausting.

If you respect your time, others will respect it, too, which can mean more productivity and good work overall. Saying no every once and a while may lead to people only coming to you when they really need help as opposed to make you the automatic go-to for any tiny problem that arises. And that leaves you more time for yourself and your responsibilities.

Obviously, saying no does come with some finesse. Be kind if you’re turning someone down, have a good reason for doing so, and don’t say no to things that are in fact mandatory or crucial to your success (“No, boss, I will not write our annual report that goes to all of our investors!”).

But once those bases are covered? Don’t be afraid to drop a “no” now and then.

Photo of person choosing no courtesy of Shutterstock.