It is natural to want to help, especially if it can help you professionally. However, saying yes to more work can increase your workload to an unreasonable or unmanageable level. When this happens, stress increases, productivity decreases, and burnout can be imminent. In this article, we address how to respectfully reply to requests to do more.

Burnout can occur as a result of a simple three letter word – Yes. Over time, agreeing to help out on one more committee or to do a quick review of a colleague’s report can create a mountain of overwhelm. That overwhelm will eventually result in burnout. While it may seem more advantageous to your career, or simply easier to do so, saying “yes” to every request can do more harm than good.

When asked to do more, it is not always necessary to say “yes” or “no”. However, it is important to know how to respond honestly and professionally. Remember that the person asking for help or looking to delegate a task is probably just as busy or stressed, perhaps even more so, than you. When responding to requests, be sure to have some compassion.

When a manager or team leader is delegating a task or asking for support on a project, it can be tempting to agree at the moment and then quickly reject the decision when you review your to-do list. To prevent burnout, ask your manager for a moment to review your current workload before committing. Once complete, remind them of your current priorities and ask if this new task should be a top priority. Based upon the answer, create and share a new timeline so that your manager is aware of the effect that the new task has on your current projects.

When a colleague asks for help, it can be very distracting, causing you to lose focus and decrease productivity. When you are disturbed, it can take up to fifteen minutes to regain focus on the task you were working on. If this is occurring several times per day, you can feel as if nothing is getting accomplished, which can lead to frustration and eventual burnout. To avoid this from happening, shut down your email, silence your phone, and put up a note or other indicator that you are not to be disturbed.

Responding to a colleague’s request can be as easy as explaining that you do not have the time at the moment, but would be more than happy to schedule a time later in the day. This will do two things: first, it will show that you value their request and would like to give them your full attention. Second, it shows that you are not able to drop everything for every request.

In many industries, clients can be the most demanding of your time and resources, especially in creative fields. While we all want to make our clients happy, it is important to be transparent when asked to make one more change or add one more detail to a project. When dealing with existing clients, politely remind them of their projects, the scope of work, and timelines. Disclose that if extra time is required, cost adjustments will need to be made to complete any changes or to add on new components.

Learning how to accept more work or when to assist a colleague can make all the difference when preventing overwhelm and burnout.

David Klein is a leading Executive IT Recruiter & Headhunter with over 15 years of industry experience.  As Manager of Recruitment Strategy for KDS Staffing, Inc., he has achieved industry-leading success. David has successfully led, trained and introduced many in the art of Executive Recruitment and Headhunting. If you or your organization would like to discuss hiring needs, contact David at 646-650-2833 or