Saying no is not always easy, although it is vital to time management. Telling your major professor that you do not have time to write a literature review for his or her upcoming manuscript because you have to study for your comprehensive exams will be really difficult. It might even be harder to tell your best friend that you cannot make it to his or her birthday because you have to grade papers.

Time Management Tip: Learning When to Say No

It’s hard enough to say no, but it can be even harder to learn when to say no. When trying to decide whether or not saying no is a wise choice, you should consider the potential consequences and missed benefits of saying no. For example, how might your major professor respond to you declining to work on a research project? Based on your work together, do you think your professor will be supportive, or might your professor respond poorly to you saying no? Would working on one extra project open doors for further collaboration and potential publications in the grand scheme of things?

Time Management Tip: Learning How to Say No

It may also be difficult to learn the language of saying no—especially when you are saying no to someone who is in a position of power, such as a faculty member. When saying no, you should convey a message such as the following: “This is a really busy time for me right now, and I am not sure if I will be able to dedicate myself to this in the way that is needed.” As you can imagine, this has a much different tone than something that conveys a message such as the following: “No, I don’t want to.” In many instances, the people in your life will understand and respect your decision not to take on additional responsibilities if you are unable to do so. Learning how to prioritize your activities, homework, and responsibilities is very important to ultimately graduating and earning your degree.



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