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Practicing the Art of Saying No

Spring Quarter is finally here, and we at Core Programs extend a warm welcome to you as you continue to focus on your personal, intellectual, and professional goals!  We ourselves have lots of projects, collaborations, and dreams in the works.  It can sometimes get overwhelming and things you had hoped to do “sometime this year” are not yet happening.  Whether you are completing your very first year of graduate school, drafting your thesis or dissertation, or currently doing a job search, Spring Quarter is a great time to clarify your priorities and make room for what is really important to you.  It’s a great time to practice saying no.

Say No to Create Space.  You may have heard the expression, “The work will always be there.”  This is true for those of us who are in academia whether we are students or administrative, teaching, or research staff and faculty.  There truly is no end to the work and additional opportunities for professional development!  But this doesn’t mean we are actually capable (nor should we try) to do work constantly.

Not only is this unhealthy, it is unrealistic.  In order to manage yourself from the temptation to overwork, make a list of your current commitments, prioritize what needs to be done this quarter, and set aside tasks or projects that can truly wait.

Example of Saying No: “Thank you for thinking of me to participate in this project.  I can’t commit right now, because I have several projects that I am working on already.  Would I be able to participate later (in the next few months, next year, etc.)?”

Say No to Be Real.  Is someone making a request of you, but the task is completely unrelated to your skill set?  Ever find yourself doing work for others, because that is easier to do, rather than focusing on your own work which can be challenging at times?  Knowing your own limitations—and areas of growth—are important for helping you to say no. Making sure that you focus on your priorities isn’t being selfish – it is what you need to do now, so you can help others going forward.

Example of Saying No:  “Unfortunately, I am not the right person to respond to this request.  However, (blank) is someone who may be able to assist you. Reach out to them, and see if they are available.”

Say No To Make Time for You.  Many times we have to say no to other people’s requests, because we need to put aside time over the course of a week to devote to our friendships, relationships, or families.  Or maybe you have been neglecting activities or hobbies that nourish you on an individual level like hiking, cycling, reading, cooking or playing video games.  Saying no to requests and projects that are not at the top of your priority list ensures that you will have time for loved ones and interests.  The only thing to remember to do is schedule times for yourself and loved ones on your calendar.

Example of Saying No: “I really appreciate you reaching out for my participation on XYZ, but my plate is full.”

Saying no is an art that takes consistent practice over time.  The more you can try out these strategies, the better you will be at managing your time and energy to concentrate on things that matter most. What are your strategies for saying no?  Let us know, so we can share them out!


Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team