Sometimes saying “yes” to a co-worker’s request for help is unavoidable. But don’t let such requests spin your schedule out of control. Here’s how to help a co-worker without making your own productivity suffer:
Tell the person “yes,” but remind him that he’ll owe you one. Next time you’re in a bind, he can take on something for you.
Inform the co-worker you’ll help this time, but ask how the two of you can better plan for the next time.
Take control of the timetable. Example: “I could do that for you, but not until the end of next week.”
Put a tough condition on your agreement. Example: “If it would take only an hour, I’d be able to help, but I can’t give you more time than that.”