Use This Conversational Tool to Keep From Being Swamped at Work

Do you ever feel like you should say “no” to a request at work, but the “correct” answer is “yes”? For example, let’s say you’re at a team meeting, brainstorming ideas for a new marketing campaign. And some of the ideas are great ideas. . .but all of them fall in your area of responsibility. You feel swamped already. To say “yes” means piling more onto your already overflowing plate of tasks. And saying “no” means that the great idea doesn’t move forward. (And you might also be pegged for not being a team player.) It is a dilemma, but there is a way to keep from being swamped at work.

Here’s how to handle it.

My colleague “Gina” (a project manager) uses a specific technique when her team starts brainstorming all those great ideas. It’s called “We could if . . .” This is how it works: When the team settles on an idea that has merit, but there aren’t currently resources to make it happen, Gina will say, “We could do [proposed idea] if we decided to shelve [existing project or task] until [proposed idea] is complete.”

Essentially, this is a conversational tool that helps you set priorities and boundaries. It helps the people sitting around the table understand the consequences of adding to an already-full task list. “We could if . . .” keeps the dialog moving forward, and shows interest in considering the idea that’s on the table. It also helps teams consider the merits of the exciting new idea in a different light. Maybe it is a great idea, but it’s not as important as other projects/tasks currently underway.

“We could if . . .” is also very effective for work team leaders who make requests that are unrealistic because they don’t know how much time is needed to complete certain tasks. You could change the phrasing to “I could do that if . . .”

So what do you think? How can you use the conversational tool of “We could if . . .” to help you keep from being swamped at work? Put your ideas in the comments section!

You might also enjoy How Saying No Elevates Your Integrity.

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