The idea of turning down work seems crazy, doesn’t it? Early in our careers, many of us scrambled to make a living. We took every client and every job opportunity we could. That was a mistake then, and it’s a mistake now.
Taking every client, any time of day, any day of the week, sets us up for creating a schedule that is chopped up, with no real time for ourselves or others in our lives. Imagine a schedule where you have hour-long sessions with clients at 6am, 9am, 10am, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm. Six client hours per day is not bad, but those hours are going to old really fast. Set the hours that you want to be working first. (I used to set my hours so that I finished for the day when it was time to pick up my kids from school.) Then, work at filling those hours in. When asked to take on a client outside of those hours, explain that you only take clients from ______ to ________ and if they can adjust their schedule to meet between those hours, you would be happy to work with them. If they can’t, refer them to another personal trainer that would be a good match for them. The person inquiring about working with you will appreciate it and may well refer others to you that can train in that time frame.
Being able to say no to work is not just about training clients. It could also be additional jobs (or tasks) that we get offered throughout our careers. Taking every opportunity that comes our way can turn our lives into high pressure, stressful times that don’t leave time for the things that really matter to us. Maybe you were asked to serve on a committee, a board of directors, head a special project, take on an extra part-time job,… whatever. In each case, you need to weigh the benefits with the cost of time and effort. If its benefits, either financially or career-building wise, outweigh the cost, by all means take it, but you need to take the time to scrutinize it.
What got me thinking about this was that I was just offered (and was contemplating) an opportunity to create and teach a video course for a college in Ireland. Sounded like a very cool project. I was flattered that they asked me and it would be rewarding to create something like that. I took a few days to think it over. The money offered wasn’t great and it was going to eat into time that I really do need to put elsewhere (family, our business, and a project that was going to have a greater, long-term financial reward). So, after weighing the benefits and the cost to me, I turned them down.
Time is a precious commodity and we need to make the most of what we have. Learn to say no. Carve out the time to do the things that are most important to you and then only take on work that fits around that schedule.