7 Tips For Handling Requests

by Dr. Chris White, PHD on May 13, 2023

Woman overwhelmed at work

If you feel like you are busy, keep reading. And if you feel like when you are busy, people keep asking for more, then definitely keep reading!

I work with a lot of leaders—even ones who are normally outspoken—who find it challenging when a leader or another colleague asks them to do something, to help, or to take on more. And in the moment, most of us default to saying some form of yes. Here are 7 tips to add your toolkit when a request is made:

1. Reply with “Would you say this is an emergency?” (versus just assuming it’s an emergency)

People often approach us with an urgency or excitement that implies whatever they are asking is of utmost importance. And maybe it is, but the keyword is maybe. Sometimes by simply asking a follow-up question, we find out it wasn’t as urgent as we assumed.

2. Less internal pressure—fight the guilt

Shame and guilt aren’t great motivators and usually just hurt the person carrying them. If we attach too much emotion to not being able to do everything that’s ever asked of us, that’s our issue, not theirs.

3. Give more cushion on deadlines

Don’t be too optimistic and end up setting deadlines that depend on everything working out perfectly—because it usually won’t!

4. Keep leaders/others aware of my workload

Don’t be a broken record but also don’t be someone who overworks themselves in secret.

5. Brainstorm possible resources with leaders/others

Other people can help us think differently about things we could stop doing or ways we could be creative to create capacity. One client shared with me recently how they were able to get a contract worker to delegate some repetitive tasks to.

6. Try to keep some boundaries.

If you don’t set some boundaries, no one will set them for you. We all have days and even seasons when work surges, but we still have to recognize when our lack of boundaries compound the problem.

7. Block my calendar for key priorities.

If at all possible, proactively block time on your calendar to make sure that key responsibilities don’t get pushed to the side and so that other people can’t book every minute of your day.

Some of us are in more service-oriented roles where just telling someone “No” isn’t an option, but choosing a tip or two above, and having that tip ready when you are asked to do something extra, can help you steward your time in a more discerning way.