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Just Say “No”

There is an epidemic spreading among my lawyer colleagues and clients. One that has reached all areas of practice and even in-house counsel. It’s consistently saying “yes” to all speaking engagements, writing engagements, local bar appointments, and new client matters. It’s never doing an honest assessment of whether you are at capacity or on the verge of burnout. It’s time to start saying “no” and this is your practical guide for how to do so. 

Step #1: Never immediately agree to any engagement or new matter. Give yourself at least 24 hours to consider your current schedule and the items on your desk. Ask the person that is requesting that you take on something new some time to consider the engagement before you agree to it. Tell the potential client you will get back to them soon.

Step #2: Do an honest evaluation of your level of overwhelm. What does your calendar look like? Do you have nonstop appointments or deadlines that are looming? Do you have a trial or some other time-consuming engagement around the corner? Be real about the time constraints that you currently face and decide whether you have space or the energy for something new. 

Step #3: Assess how much time the new engagement will take from your existing work. There are simple tasks/requests that can be accomplished with very little time and then there are tasks that become all consuming. Be as clear as possible about the requirements of the proposed engagement and how much time it will take from what is likely already a busy schedule. 

Step #4: Say “no” if another obligation is going to tip you into burnout. It is okay to decline a new matter or a speaking opportunity if you’re already slammed in work or in your home life. Remember that your first priority is always you and protecting your own emotional and physical well being. The world is full of opportunities and they will continue to come to you regardless of a declination in your past. 

When you continue to keep your health top of mind, it becomes clearer when you can accept a new engagement and when you need to decline. Hyper-awareness of your current life and schedule is absolutely necessary to make the best decisions and to avoid burnout. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you’re low on time or energy. If you need support, please reach out and let’s talk coaching. Saying “no” is a big part of creating your ultimate life.