Blog post – Prioritising your work time: the power of saying no

Prioritising your time at work means making decisions about what you do. Freedom and autonomy are critical factors in creativity and innovation. Key ingredients in how academics and professional staff work as knowledge creators and knowledge sharers in universities.

Video: Associate Professor Kim Wilkins' perspective

How do you make decisions about how you spend your time?

Decisions about work-related tasks inevitability affect decisions made outside of work. Do you accept a speaking invitation – great for your CV and networking, yet means travel away from family or carer responsibilities? Your colleague asks for feedback on a manuscript or new curricular resource, which you should do, but it means pushing back your other work commitments. A student comes to you seeking advice. 

Associate Professors Kim Wilkins and Kelly Matthews met earlier this year at an Advancing the Careers of Academic Woman event. No matter the topic, the women leaders in the room always came back to managing work-life balance. Of course, the topic is of relevance to anyone working in higher education with some degree of freedom and autonomy over how they spend their time. Making decisions that balance teaching and research and service and engagement and all the human relationships that matter, means prioritising our time. 

Sometimes, we need to say no. 

Kim shared a specific approach to how she gives herself permission to say no. In doing so, she has developed a robust approach that has strengthened her resolve in saying no while freeing up time for the thinking work required in her role. Watch her talk with Kelly about her approach in the above video interview.

Notice how Kim has:

  • specific words she uses to ‘say no’ that ensures askers understand her no means no;
  • a specific strategy to document how saying no directly correlates to time spent on work; and
  • sustained her resolve to saying no.

Of course, we cannot all just take Kim’s approach and do it ourselves. We have different responsibilities, roles, and dispositions. Yet, we can all think more deliberately about how we spend our time and the choices we make to ensure we are spending our time in the ways that matter to us. Kim talks about first knowing her values and then considering how they translate to your daily schedule. A thought exercise we can all do. 

Last month, we discussed managing emails with almost 100 contributions offering insights into emails.

Now tell us how you say no and how you feel about saying no in this month's poll.

Last updated:
3 September 2019