Boundaries: Saying No

I have had a hard time saying no. This is the nature of one dozen years as adjunct or sessional faculty–what many refer to as the New Faculty Majority. Now, I’m about to start my fourth year as tenure line faculty and this will mark the fourth year out of fifteen when I shut my door. My door is only open during office hours. I make no apologies for this. I am open and available for consultations during my office hours or appointments. Truthfully, a senior colleague insisted that I shut my door to get my work done. To this day, I thank him for his honesty.

Likewise, I’ve  become better at allowing myself to take a vacation. This means not responding to student emails and more importantly not feeling guilty about it. Of course, I never got the sheer volume of emails previously. This changed when I got my tenure line job and was also made an Undergraduate Advisor. Students need advising year round. The department where I work has assigned other faculty during my vacation, but that doesn’t stop the emails from trickling in. Perhaps it helps the deluge!

This May I started an email to myself where I remind myself of my professional declines. I cannot do everything and anything. I note my achievements via my CV, but what about those moments when I protect my time and sanity and say, “no.” Well, I have an email to self that shares my no accomplishments. I started this in May and I’m only at 18, but each one of these declines allowed me to spend more time on teaching, advising, myself, and work/life balance. So, I suggest that we remember to celebrate boundary keeping and those moments when we must politely decline.Don’t get me wrong–I say yes to lots of meetings and opportunities. I do believe the department head would concur that I am a good citizen in the department and for the faculty at large.

But, the department head has also encouraged me to say no more. I’ve had colleagues who have a printout that read: Just say NO within their field of vision as a reminder when they are on the phone. Oh, that reminds me to add another point. I’m at 19! And, I am also reminded me of themes at Breathe Now, a conference that I co-coordinated with Janice Mansfield, Angela Rafuse-Tahir, and Yukari Peerless. Many of our speakers noted that it’s important to take time for yourself–breathe. Say no, when you need to!

Taking Time For Yourself: Fri Fun Facts

I used to have a hard time saying no to students. The infamous, “Do you have a minute” moments would eat away at my day. During the last four years I became more comfortable saying  no. This meant that I referred students to my office hours or encouraged them to email me to set up another time. The first few times that I said no I was a little excited. Did I actually say no?!

You’re probably wondering what is so liberating or dangerous about saying no. Well, when you’re part-time or junior faculty saying no can be an issue. Are you a team player? Do you carry your weight in the department and are you dependable. My Fri Fun Facts speaks to taking time for yourself.

1. In order to have a decent lunch step away from the compute or invite a colleague to your office for lunch. If not you might do what I often do (but try to do less) and eat at your keyboard and not really take a lunch break.

2. Walk around the building or to another building to get outside of the department. I have scheduled e-lerts that say, get outside, walk to DSB (another building), go visit so and so. Seriously.

3. Schedule coffees with friends across campus so that you have to walk across the campus. It’s OK to take 30-60 minutes and catch up with a friend. If you’re anything like me, it will be work-related. It will.

4. Say no and don’t feel guilty about it. Now, when I say no, I am going to picture Rona Maynard’s keynote at #breatheyyj Saying no is acceptable. Saying no can protect your time.

I’ll end noting that I have never had a student get mad that I said no. They are usually good about emailing to schedule a meeting or come  back during my office hours. With that–it’s OK to say no.

On Saying No and Setting Limits/Guest Post

This is another guest post via Breathe Now by the especially talented Janice Mansfield. This post resonates with all the busy women. It is OK and necessary to say no and set boundaries. It can be hard to do so, but it is something that we all need to get better at doing! This post was originally published on July 3rd at You know the axiom–if you want something done– ask a busy woman! Well, busy women (and men for that matter) need to not feel guilty at occasionally saying, no! 

Sometimes you just need a big karmic bitchslap before you’ll sit up and pay attention.  That’s kind of what this week has been like!

I’ve been feeling stretched thin the last little while, and had agreed to stretch myself a little thinner than normal by taking on a favour which I was hesitant about, but didn’t want to say “no”.  My husband did give me a little warning “… are you SURE you should be taking this on?” — should’ve probably listened to him, but the universe obliged with a little firmer follow-up later in the week.

The irony was that myself and one of the other Breathe Now co-founders found ourselves talking with Rona Maynard, one of our keynote speakers about the direction for her keynote address, and I found myself having to physically take a moment to calm down — mind and mouth racing in two directions at the same time with all the madness of the week going on.  The good news is, the moments spent with Rona on the phone did provide a little oasis of calm.  The bad news is we finished the call, and I launched right back in the crazy-making of the week — a week made busier than need-be due to my not saying “no”.

This week culminated in a high followed by a complete low point!  The high point being my friend Aaron Hall, asking me to film an episode of his new food show Delicious, at my house!  An honour, and quite interesting to see all that goes on behind the scenes!  The low point being the favour I had agreed to do, completely falling through into a complete sh*# show (sorry, no nice way of putting it!).  As I said, sometimes the universe just decides you need a giant kick in the rear before you’ll get it!

So the upside of this week is a giant re-realization that

  1. I should probably heed my intuition when I’m feeling like I’m overextending myself, or a “favour” does not line up with my business goals.
  2. I should probably also pay more attention to my husband when he gently reminds me of (1).  Thankfully, he has just shaken his head, and not given me the “I told you so”!