When to say no to new work

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re juggling too many projects and not enough time to do them? You’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and maybe even resentful of your clients. You know the work will be good for your business and it’s hard to say “no.” How can you avoid these feelings by saying no to new work when necessary?

Be honest with yourself: Assess how much time you have for the project. Think about your current projects and what they need from you right now. What are other priorities in your life outside of work? Are there any that can be cut back or postponed until a later date?

Be honest with your clients: Your clients are going to trust you more if they know you’re upfront with them. They’re unlikely to be happy if they find out you’ve been taking on more work than is feasible for you. Let them know how much time and energy the project will take, and what it means for your availability in other projects.

Evaluate your current workload and deadlines. Can work be postponed? Perhaps you push the start date back and book the work in advance. It’s always best to serve a client fully and be entirely dedicated to their project by delaying a bit until you free up. A client that is willing to work with you on timing is a client that you want.

Keep in mind that saying no to new work could be a good thing for you and the company. Consider how this decision will affect your employees — are they feeling overwhelmed too, or is it just you who feels like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. Perhaps it’s an issue of delegating?

Figure out what tasks can be delegated to other team members or outsourced so that you do not have to take on all the additional workload.

Our lives should not be just filled with work. We have life and responsibilities outside of work. Review your commitments. Are your outside commitments still something you should be doing? Are they serving you and your goals?

You know your business needs the work, but it’s important to take care of yourself as well. Saying no when necessary is one way you can do that and avoid feeling resentful or overwhelmed with too many projects on your plate.

You may find it difficult to say “no” when someone asks for your help, but if you can’t give them the time they need then it’s better to be honest with yourself and let them know. Saying no doesn’t have to mean that you’re saying never — just not now. Try setting boundaries on what you’ll take on at any given point in time and stick to those limits so that you don’t fall into overwhelm or resentfulness of your clients or the work itself.

You’ll feel better about the projects you’re able to take on and your clients will appreciate that their needs are being prioritized. When is the last time you said “no” when asked for new work?


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Marc Sawyer

I’m an Architect. My favorite thing to do is create stories through architectural design. Founder of Whitewash Studio architecture firm in Atlanta, GA.