When colleagues comes to us for help, shouldn’t we always help them? If he is stuck and does not know what to do, should we not be there for him and help him get moving again? If we set aside what we are doing for just one moment to answer her question, would this not benefit all of us? It is not very friendly or helpful to others to close the door and make yourself unavailable for long periods of time, now is it?
No man is an island and we need each other to succeed.
From time to time I hear people who reason along these lines. I am inclined to disagree with them. And more often than so, I meet people who do agree with that isolating yourself is sometimes the best thing to do, but who still feel bad about doing so. In my opinion, it is a shame they feel this way.
Why? Well, let us take a look at this way of reasoning.
Do we all get help if everyone helps everyone else first?
As we are sitting at our desk working, we cannot know in advance when a colleague (or a client, for that matter), will need our help. Suddenly the phone will ring or there is someone at your door. If we have time to do all the additional things others bring you as well as what we originally had to do, we never have to turn someone down (or say yes to helping them, but that you will do it later). I still have not met anyone who this applies to. On the contrary, most people have too much to do already.
But, what if everyone helped everyone else first, wouldn’t we also receive the assistance we need to do our tasks as well whenever we needed it? Well, is this how things really work? If we already have too much to do, and then choose to prioritize working on someone else’s task first, then our own tasks and work is delayed. If we spend so much time being available for others and helping our colleagues, you might ask yourself how much our tasks really can be considered ”ours”.
Use your goals to help you focus
When I help clients one-to-one with sorting their to-do-tasks when their workload is too heavy, we use the goals which my mentee is responsible for attaining in the business as a venture point. The tasks which unquestionably contribute to the achievement of these goals are hence the most important ones to complete.
And as it just so happens, the goals also help us determine if and when it is justified to close the door and make ourselves unavailable to others, and when it is not.
Hence do this
- Take out your goals so that you have them in front of you
- Study them closely and determine what they actually consist of
- Do they only measure different aspects of the work you do as you are helping your colleagues? If so, it sounds as if you are right to help others first at all times since the tasks you then perform are what matters most to the attainment of the goals you are responsible for. The help you provide others with is what your most important tasks are comprised of and you are right to prioritize these regardless how urgent (or not) they are.
- But, if your goals concern more than (or not at all) living up to your colleagues’ expectations of receiving your assistance whenever they require it, you are very right to say no to their request (or yes, but later) that you complete tasks (or provide them with assistance), since this would mean that you do not prioritize tasks which are important to you and the goals you are working to achieve.
Saying no to someone means saying yes to yourself
Learning to from time to time say ”no, not now, but possibly later” or something along those lines when someone comes asking you for help, is necessary for you to complete whatever you are expected to do in a sustainable and pleasant way without over-working or feeling stressed.
If you always help others first, when will you have time to work with your own tasks enough to know what you need help from others with? If your goals do not only concern being the internal support-function in your company but you still find yourself wanting to prioritize other’s need for your help, perhaps you should ask yourself if you have set your goals accurately? Being responsible for goals which are attained by completing tasks which you seldom allow yourself to complete without being disturbed, is to make way for trouble. That would be a pity.
What is your method?
In spite of knowing all this, you might feel reluctant towards telling someone you would rather not be disturbed at the moment. This is why I would like to know how you manage to without effort and a bad conscience communicate to your colleagues that you are not receptive to their quick questions for the next little while? Do tell. Leave a comment.