Feeling overcommitted? Said yes when you should have said no? Here's some sage advice on how to set boundaries and still share your time and energy:
Try saying maybe. Often, we think we'll have time tomorrow that we don't have today, once we work through our to-do lists and finish our current commitments. It's tempting to say yes to new tasks and projects under these circumstances—and then it turns out we don't have that extra time after all. It's better to defer making a decision to accept a new obligation until we're absolutely sure we can handle it and can perform the task up to our own standards. It's better to have a reputation as someone who consistently succeeds than as someone who overpromises.
Don't apologize when saying no. A polite "I'm sorry" is OK, but don't send the message that even you think you're responding the wrong way to a request for assistance. Your decision to decline is not only perfectly legitimate but also unlikely to be as disappointing to others as you may fear. After all, it's usually easier for them to ask someone else than it would be for you to take on the assignment. There's no need for guilt.
Keep explanations in check. Along the same lines, you usually don't have to justify a negative response to a request. There are two exceptions, though. If you're being asked to do something you never want to do—like, say, loan someone money—you should consider letting the requester know what your rules are. And if you're being asked to do something by your boss, it's best to explain why you feel you must decline, if only to keep him informed about your workload.