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Your boss asks you to take on a new project, even though your last one just ended a week ago. A long-term client wants you to commit to three new articles by the end of the month, and your business partner messages to let you know that the client you thought you lost just signed on for 4 more months. While you’re no doubt happy that business is booming, or your boss is showing outward signs of satisfaction with your work — your mind silently screams for some downtime.

Sound familiar?

Health Effects of Too Much Work

If you overcommit yourself at work, you probably do it in other areas of your life, too. Overcommitment can leave you with little energy reserves for things like self-care or sleep. As you become more run down, your body will kick into overdrive by producing more stress hormones, giving you the needed energy to cope with the immediate stress. However, this can leave you suffering from the proverbial “crash and burn” syndrome, both mentally and physically.

When your body is in a constantly heightened state, you might struggle to sleep, experience more pain or emotional challenges, or even have fertility issues. Too much stress can leave you fighting headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. When you’re not feeling your best, you’re likely not performing your best either, which can take a toll on your creativity and productivity.

Not performing your best can take a toll on creativity.

It might be time to slow down your “yes” — you know, that knee-jerk reaction many of us have to take on a new client or work overtime without question, just to keep all of the balls flying high in the air. The idea of saying no might make you queasy, so here’s a guide to get you started: 4 guiding questions to help you understand if what you’re committing to is truly worth your time. If you can’t give positive answers to any or all of these questions, then it’s time say no.

1) Does it align with your mission?

The first step to knowing when to say ‘no’ is to create a mission for yourself or your business. You might feel a little odd when writing out a personal mission statement. However, one simple, succinct statement can provide clarity to the projects and clients that set your soul on fire. These are the commitments you want to agree to every time the opportunity is laid on your desk or shows up in your inbox. Once you have a mission statement, passing on opportunities that don’t align with your mission becomes much simpler.

2) Is your ‘yes’ fear-based?

Fear comes in many packages. It might be the fear of failure, being fired, or being stuck where you are right now.

It’s time to face the fear and learn to control it.

No matter what the fear is — it’s time to face it and learn to control it. Saying yes too many commitments out of fear will lead to job burnout and dissatisfaction.

Before you say yes, write down the pros and cons of taking on this new project. This can help to shake out the real reasons you’re saying yes, and help you to see the positive and negative effects of your decision.

Oh, and don’t be wooed by money. This can be hard — especially if you’re just starting out as a freelancer or new business owner, because the fear of not paying your bills can be very real. Just remember there’s a lot more to your long-term career goals than what this one project will pay.

3) How much time will this take?

Giving yourself permission to say no is powerfully freeing.

If a new project double-books every time slot you have for the week, you can bet that it will leave you feeling the emotional and physical effects of overcommitment. Take a serious look at your schedule to see if you can move work around before saying yes. Or, if the new project is a dream client or project, consider dropping a client that no longer fits your work or financial needs. This can be a difficult decision to make, but giving yourself permission to say no is powerfully freeing. You only have a limited amount of time; strategize accordingly.

4) Can I say ‘yes’ and then delegate to the team?

If the new project doesn’t hit all of the criteria spot-on but is still worthy work, consider delegating to others on your team. You might even have a rockstar colleague that you could refer the job to, creating a win-win situation all around. This is a great way to say yes — while actually saying no and protecting yourself and your time in the process.

As women, we are always looking for ways to build into other women, and this could be one of those times. Your overcommitment could be someone else’s dream gig, so if this project isn’t for you — share it with a worthy peer.

Any ‘yes’ you give should be given intentionally, with thoughtfulness. Not because you were too scared or rushed to say no! So take some time and slow down your yes — use these questions to add some clarity to your decision.

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