Discussion Thread

Learn to Say No

  • 1.  Learn to Say No

    Posted 10-28-2019 10:55 AM
    Saying no is often really hard. But I think it is sometimes one of the most freeing words in the English language. As we say no, we are taking control of what is important to us. There comes a point in our lives when we are so busy we cannot take another project, another task, another activity, but we still say yes.

    "When you're busy, you're more likely to make poor time-management choices - taking on commitments you can't handle, or prioritizing trifling tasks over crucial ones. A vicious spiral kicks in, your feelings of busyness leave you even busier than before, " says Oliver Burkeman of the BBC.

    We need to understand the importance of saying no and knowing what is really important. I came across this article that talk about that and it gives four steps to decide if something is really important or not:

    • Is this an essential task, relative to what matters most to me?
    • Do I do this really well with little effort?
    • Is this something only I can do - or could it be delegated to someone else?
    • Does this task bring me joy?
    How do you decide when to take more work or not? Is it hard for you to say no?

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    Luis Duque EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Broomfield CO
    luis@...
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  • 2.  RE: Learn to Say No

    Posted 10-29-2019 07:48 AM
    Hi Luis, Great topic!
    During my previous years I used to say yes even though it exceeds my capacity. When I was in charge of building construction at the time of working in Manila, I would make commitments, which were often made under pressure to some extent but were unrealistic to achieve. Before long, it caused negative impression due to the commitments which failed.
    In a long retrospect,  I realized that I can't say yes to more tasks especially if they are out of my reasonable reach. In this way, I assure I would only say yes if I am confident in achieving that task.
    I agree that essential and important tasks shall come first over those which are not. In case that one task can be done with little effort, it will also make limited benefits for those who are involved in. When you devote yourself to a complicated task and paying much greater effort, it may eventually bring more valuable accomplishments.
    Nowadays I would decide not to take more work if I have asserted that it really is better to do so, both for myself and for the team. It's hard for me to say no, but I am doing better.

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    Jiqiu Wang R.Eng, M.ASCE
    Senior Quantity Surveyor
    Shenzhen
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  • 3.  RE: Learn to Say No

    Posted 10-29-2019 05:47 PM
    Hi Luis,

    Saying 'no' is a great topic that is dear to my heart.
    I like the four bullets you provided.  May I draw your attention to the first bullet, "Is this an essential task, relative to what matters most to me?" and point out that, to know this, you must first understand what matters most to you.

    I, too, have struggled with saying 'no' - an essential skill if one is to avoid overwhelm and stress in our industry.  Saying 'no' is impossible to do comfortably and responsibly if you have not clarified (and I mean crystal clear) what matters and what does not, in both one's personal and professional life. Once you have this clarity, the task does not become easy, but certainly easier.

    I learned a great deal from the book, "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown. An immensely helpful excerpt from the audiobook is available free as a podcast from The Tim Ferriss Show. Episode # 328 (https://tim.blog/2018/07/19/essentialism/)

    I hope you find this as useful as I have.


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    George Lintern Aff.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Nashville TN
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  • 4.  RE: Learn to Say No

    Posted 10-30-2019 10:15 AM

     Thank you, Luis, for starting a discussion on this important topic! I still struggle with saying "No", but one of your bullet points resonated with me  - "Is this something only I can do - or could it be delegated to someone else?" We now have two graduate engineers and if I am overloaded with work, I will suggest delegating the work to them. The key point I make in these situations is that I state that I am happy to make myself available if they have any questions about the work.

    We also have a weekly bridge group meeting every Monday where we review a spreadsheet that included everyone's anticipated hours for the week. Of course, things pop up throughout the week, but generally this Monday meeting does help us spread the work evenly throughout the team as well as set work priorities.



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    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 5.  RE: Learn to Say No

    Posted 11-09-2019 09:23 AM
    Thank You, Danielle. You very precisely explained it .But when our answer is "No" to all the bullet points then even, it is advised in our organisation not to say "No" at the onset.  Next time one should go with  facts and circumstances  to his Manager or boss explaining situations. In this way one can go from polite No to I think you will agree with my viewpoint.


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    Charanjit Singh Shergill. CPEng,M ASCE, F IEI

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    Charanjit Singh Shergill CPEng, M.ASCE
    Superintending Engineer , PWD (WR) Department , Government Of Punjab State
    Kharar
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