The working day can be hectic. Monday to Friday, our days are full with scheduled meetings, unexpected meetings, projects to complete with deadlines, co-workers to help, phone calls to take, phone calls to return, emails to deal with, files to organize, and whatever other emergencies that come our way. By Tuesday, you can already see your best laid plans and workload tumbling. That’s usually when a co-worker or your boss walks to your desk with a “Do you have a minute?” What comes to mind is…. “I don’t have time for this right now,” while true, those words can feel rude. Yet, you are overloaded and must navigate the request. Here are three ways to do just that. “I’m having an eventful day/week. Can we return to this [set a specific time]?” You are achieving three things, you are acknowledging your busy workload to yourself as much as your co-worker, you are scheduling a time frame to come back to their request and you are acknowledging their needs also. Setting a specific and realistic time is important; don’t say “later.” Later is too vague and may be taken as a brush off. Or if it is a less urgent request, how about “I can’t make it a priority right now, but I’ll definitely help when things calm down.” This is saying you want to help, but you can’t commit to any time sensitive projects From there your co-worker may seek someone else’s help, yet you have still shown your willingness to help when you are able. “I’d be happy to help, but I’ll need a hand on [X] to fit it in my schedule.” This is the trade-off approach. Not only will this help you, it is likely to make your co-worker feel better for asking as well. Ensure the trade-off balances out. You don’t want to accept help for a half-hour project if it means helping your co-worker for three hours. You’ll be even busier than before! Saying “I don’t have time for this right now” is tactless. It implies your time and workload are more important than your co-worker’s’. One quality these three approaches share is they show your desire to help but leave space for you to offer it when your schedule allows. Planning and rescheduling for when you can focus on the task at hand, ensures your help is always at its best!
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