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Building Boundaries: Knowing when to say "yes"​ and how to say"no"​




You spent years helping colleagues. You stay late, work through lunch, assist with projects even while on vacation, and work on weekends to help your co-workers. I worry, however, that you may start feeling generosity burnout – a term coined by professors Adam Grant and Reb Rebele which describes a state of emotional exhaustion that comes from giving too much. Sadly, such behaviour, can and often does, negatively affect work and one’s personal life.


So how can you continue giving but ensure you don’t succumb to generosity burnout?


The experts weigh in:


1. Adam Grant explains that you should strategically chunk the day and times you provide assistance. In other words, reserve Friday afternoon for mentoring others or advising on special projects. This will reduce fatigue.


2. The second pro-tip comes from my good friend and colleague, Teo Blackburn. Teo came up with the term Strategic Scheduling when we worked together on Concordia University’s week long program for the Academic Leadership Institute.


The academic C-suite is composed of a small group of very busy people and everyone is vying for their time and attention. Strategic scheduling means you are smart about when you schedule meetings. Don’t schedule meetings back-to-back (especially on zoom), and bake in a 5-minute break between meetings so that you can re-energize and renew. Those of you who have attended our Manage your Energy Not Your Time (also known as Tiny Tweaks, Transformative results) webinar have learned to work in conjunction with your ultradian rhythms instead of against them. Allowing time for a 5-minute break (which should not be used to check email) gives you some time to replenish your energy reserves. Time is a limited resource friends, energy is renewable (providing you take time to refuel).


Another pro-tip that emerged during the Academic Leadership Institute was a suggestion by our Co-facilitator, Layal El-Hadi, who advised that meetings be scheduled for 25 minutes instead of 30, and 50 instead of 60 minutes so that you have time to breath and prep for your next commitment.


Don’t underestimate the power of working with, instead of against, your ultradian rhythms! These strategies do really work!

If you want to know more about ultradian rhythms check out Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy’s excellent article on the subject.


3. Our last tip is to develop expertise in a specific work domain which will influence the types of “asks” others make of you. In other words, you want to become known for a particular area of expertise so that colleagues only approach you for assistance that is related to your expert knowledge, thus reducing requests for help.

When you nurture a skillset that you really love and enjoy using, professors Netta Weinstein and Richard Ryan argue that you feel rewarded and energized, which is much more sustainable than constantly fielding random requests for assistance which is exhausting and counterproductive.


There you have it.!


Give these strategies the old college try and let us know if they gently relieve those lengthy lists of helper requests!


Want to dig deeper and learn how to establish healthy boundaries that won’t insult or upset those colleagues who have come to count on your assistance? We can help. Join our Masterclass starting January 19 called, Building boundaries: knowing when to say “yes” and how to say “no”, or enrol in the entire course called Braver. Bolder. And Even better.


To your success!


Dr. Gill

Not yet part of our tribe? What are you waiting for!


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