Cassie Bakshani

Say ‘no’ and work better

by Cassie Bakshani

As early-career researchers, and as young people in general, the pressure to say ‘yes’ can become a little overwhelming. ‘Yes’ to work requests, ‘yes’ to exciting collaborations, ‘yes’ to having at least some semblance of a social life.

Whilst no doubt there are plenty of useful opportunities that can enrich your life and career, it’s important to recognise that an opportunity, even one that is perceived to be life-changing and unmissable, is only actually life-changing and unmissable if you have the capacity to fully commit yourself to it. If you aren’t able to input sufficient time and resources, the experience won’t be productive for you, or anyone else involved. Really, what I’m trying to say, is there is also great value in politely declining, or in other words, saying ‘no’.

Saying no, contrary to the voice in your head, does not represent failure or inadequacy. It’s about knowing your worth and the extent of your capabilities, whilst acknowledging that by taking on anything further, you could jeopardise the success of existing commitments. Spreading yourself too thinly can have serious implications, not only for your professional integrity, but more importantly, for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Practise and embrace saying no. Some of the most accomplished scientists in history are renowned for their dedication to pondering specific problems, not on the length of their ‘to-do’ list. Slow the pace, reduce the complexity and fulfil the obligations you already have, to the very best of your ability. In doing so, you’ll give yourself more time to appreciate the quiet moments of contemplation.

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