Busy, overwhelmed “Yeser’s” listen up. Yes, there’s a reason we keep getting asked to take on more—we say “Yes,” and we are the one’s who will make sure the job gets done, even if our other projects suffer and we wind up sick from exhaustion.

Why do we keep getting picked to do the project? Because we are driven doers. We’ll run through fire to honor our word, and we’re the first to admit it. In fact, it’s a badge of honor we wear. In our quest to get it all in, we say, “Yes!” It’s an honorable and awesome quality, and I love us for it!

The problem comes in when our badge of honor is not tempered with focus and freedom… to say “no.” When our inability to say “no,” or “not now,” leads to illness, exhaustion, anxiety, sleepless nights, or, worse yet, passing out at an event where we’re in charge (yes, I witnessed this happen just a couple of weeks ago), it’s time to investigate the story we tell ourselves that leads to saying “Yes” at every chance.


… missing out,

… letting people down,

… being seen as weak (admitting I can’t handle it, which leads to cockiness),

… an imperfect result that anyone, but you, would create,

… losing opportunities, and

… disappointing others

—are the biggest culprits of biting off more than we can chew, and they wind up robbing us of the chance to do our best work. Can you imagine the results we could create if we’d simply focus our “Yeses” on the right projects, and become a steward of opportunity for additional projects?

Instead of spending every moment of our days rushing—to work, through emails, the first pot of coffee, every meeting—what if we could enjoy our work, and wind up energized at the end of the day?

The following are three steps that have helped me learn to identify and enjoy my right “yeses”:

Step One: Clarity of focus. Start by giving yourself 10 minutes (preferably an hour) to think about the results you’re most committed to (i.e. customer satisfaction on project X, helping my team advance, gaining opportunities to share my message from the platform). If you serve on multiple boards, run a business, and have a family, think about the most important outcome for each area. What are you striving to accomplish, and why does it matter to you? Here’s a great resource for mapping your career.

While saying no to big projects may not be your area of struggle, consider investigating your greatest time sinks. Eager to strengthen relationships, I typically spend a great deal of time in one-on-one’s, even if I’m unsure of the purpose behind the meeting. A quick 15-20 minute phone conversation has become my new saving grace to bringing focus and clarity to these meetings.

Step Two: Forty-eight hour rule. When you get that ego-boosting request to take on another project, simply say, “Thank you for thinking of me—I love being a part of great projects. Do you mind giving me until the end of the day tomorrow to give you a decision on this? With so many balls in the air right now, I want to make sure I can devote the time and energy to this project.”

Step Three: Help them find someone. It is an honor to be asked to take on projects, and if your plate is full, you get to steward opportunity—the greatest leadership quality of all. Taking time to learn about the goals and future aspirations of the folks around you will give you the information you need to know who would appreciate the exposure and opportunity. Note, I did not say, “Find someone who can do the job as well as you.” That thinking will trap you into doing the work yourself. Instead, focus on connecting the ones who want opportunity with those who need the help.

Identifying the direction you want to take your career, and recognizing the greater contribution you want to make, is the hardest part. But, once you’ve got it (and it’s always evolving, so consider coming back to step one at least once a quarter), doing your best work, and stewarding opportunity, becomes much easier.

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister

NEW! Ready to reconnect to the excitement of—

—Your work/career

—Leading your team

—Growing your bottom line, along with your people?

Grab your 40 minute Gearing for Greatness session with Misti today—

“Working with Misti Burmeister will be one of the best decisions you have ever made as a leader. She helped me integrate new behaviors and thought processes to bolster my overall leadership presence.” –Kevin Frick, Professor and Dean, Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business