Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Say No to Darth Vader in the Office

Darth vader office spaceThis is the third and concluding post in the series about how to escape the volcano of an overscheduled life, without becoming Darth Vader.

Once you’ve strengthened your people-first identity, and built a community of like-minded people, you will be ready to take on the chaos of the workplace. The initial steps of cutting back your hours are likely to go unnoticed.

At some point, however, you will be asked to go to a last minute meeting, take on another project, or to travel on short notice. And the additional work will take time away from the rest of your life. This is the time to use some Jedi Mind Tricks—also known as  political savvy—to keep your calendar from getting too full.

Saying no to the boss can be harder than asking the NSA not to obtain more phone records. But every time you say yes to the boss, you are saying no to something else. For example, a “Yes” to putting a few slides together by morning can mean a “no” to sleep.

Jedi Trick #1: Shift your orientation to focus on the yes to the people you care about, and not the “no” to the boss. In the example above, say yes to the sleep. In this case, the Jedi trick is on yourself, to help maintain your focus on what is most important to you.

Jedi Trick #2: Get your manager to agree to your top three priorities. Then, when the request comes in to attend a random last minute meeting, if it’s not in the top three, don’t go. “I’d like to help, but I have some deliverables due tomorrow and I can’t make it. How about next week?”

And if it is your manager making the request, the answer is “No problem. I’ll give so and so a call, and let them know their deliverable will be a day late.” You’ll be amazed at how many requests fizzle out when the manager has to take accountability for the consequences.

Sound scary? I understand. The first step is often the hardest. But trust me, putting people first is a virtuous cycle. When you start feeling better, and you become more effective at work, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get here.