How to get over your FOMO and say no to unnecessary work

Kate Jones

Mastering the art of saying no is difficult for even the most pragmatic people. For self-employed workers with a "feast or famine" mentality, it can be a particularly vexed issue.

But saying no to extra work can be an effective way to say yes to better opportunities.

Personal brand expert Lauren Clemett says most small business owners suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and wind up saying yes to every work offer.

“They have bright-shiny-objectitis – constantly seeing opportunities that overwhelm them, diverting them into things they shouldn't be doing or going to activities they shouldn't be wasting time with,” she says.

Keep an eye on your business objectives and match potential jobs with these goals to avoid unnecessary work, Clemett says.

“Understanding your entrepreneurial brain and controlling it so you can stay focused on what you want to be known for will help you cut back on WOFTAM activities – waste of flipping time and money,” she says.

Some struggle to say no because they want to impress a client, management or fellow colleagues, while others simply don’t know how to say no with tact.

I found myself with more work than I knew what to do with.

But taking on too much work often translates to a low quality output, along with feelings of stress, inadequacy, frustration and even anger.

Tomer Garzberg, director of Strongman Digital Media, would often say yes to jobs for no charge or at a reduced rate to ensure a good relationship with some clients.

But as his workload grew, Garzberg says he became better at saying no.

“I found myself with more work than I knew what to do with, so my time became extremely valuable,” he says.

“So valuable, in fact, that I found myself saying no to more and more work, which didn’t deserve my allocated time.”

Garzberg now says no in a few different ways:

By quoting high

“If they still would like it done, I consider whether it's worthwhile or give them my second response,” he says.

Long wait times

A delay of two weeks or longer can be enough to make people look elsewhere.

Suggest an alternative

Recommending someone else for the job is a nice way of deflecting jobs you would rather not do.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.