A reader asked how she could say no to ever-shrinking deadlines heaped on top of one another. Short-notice rush jobs had become her staple and it was descending into “utter miserable chaos.” Rush jobs overlapped, assignments arrived late and were requested back even earlier, overnight was becoming a necessary workday.
Saving the day can become an exhausting role. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door, saying yes to a ridiculous deadline, helping a new client out of an impossible schedule. But when clients know that you can save the day, sometimes they start filling your hours with nothing but lifesaving. I’ve been working to get myself out of that “lifesaving role” for years because the panic and chaos is exhausting; and I rarely get to do my best work or get a product that everyone is proud of (because they’re all rushed and stressed).
“Can you help me prioritize these tasks? I want to be sure to get them done in the order that they’re needed.”
“Can you help me prioritize these tasks? I want to be sure to get them done in the order that they’re needed.” That is one approach that has worked for me. You might include “this is about X hours of work.” It simultaneously reminds them of your workload and that something has got to come second. The response is usually ordered priorities (which may not be the priorities I thought they were) and more time to get it done.
‘No’ is your passport to the next level.
Getting out of this role longer term takes more effort. Sometimes it means starting to say no. “’No’ is your passport to the next level,” as you’ll read in an earlier post. Sometimes it means raising your rates until you either reach a level of cash you can swim in or fewer unsavory projects are willing to pay the fee; bliss comes either way. Sometimes you can say “I really like being a valuable member of your team, but I could use a break from the constant short deadlines. Is there any way I can help smooth the process?” Then you may have to do some educating about timelines and some handholding as they make related changes. Sometimes, it means taking the time to go out and look for work that is less stressful and more rewarding, and that means saying no so you can create room in your schedule to look.