29 abr 2018 Learning to say no
A couple of months ago, I had to make a very difficult decision. I was honored to be invited to be one of the plenary speakers at the BRAZ-TESOL Curitiba event, a special one celebrating their 20th anniversary. Of course, my first reaction was to say, “YES, YES, YES!”.
But then I started thinking: I was already going to be one Saturday away from home for the BRAZ-TESOL Brasília – Goiânia joint event, then I was going to be away for two weekends on vacation, and, right after that, two more weekends for IATEFL. The event in Curitiba would be my 6th Saturday away from home. You see, Saturday is the day I have lunch at my parents’ (whom I don’t have time to see during the week) and run errands that I don’t have time for during the week. It is also one of my exercise routine days. Yes, I am addicted to exercising and this is what helps keep me calm and focused.
After mulling over this for about two days, I decided to decline the invitation. It was a very tough decision because I just love going to events, and I know that being invited to be a plenary speaker is quite an accomplishment. But I did say no. It hurt, but I did.
Not many days afterwards, I was interacting with my colleagues in the BRAZ-TESOL Board and Academic Committee what’s app group about some tasks that needed to be done. I volunteered to help, but then I realized that the tasks they needed volunteers for were of a more commercial nature, not really what I am good at. Considering my busy professional life these days, as you can see above, I realized I was not going to be able to carry them out. I had to say no. I offered to do other things that I could easily fit into my timetable, though.
I also had to write a post for this blog last March 29. I was overwhelmed with work, preparing for my IATEFL talk, and tired after the arduous work involved in planning our local BRAZ-TESOL event. I knew I wasn’t going to do a respectable job and was probably going to write something just for the sake of it. I decided not to do it. Again, it was a hard decision to make.
It has always been challenging to me to say no to opportunities that knock at my door. I am the kind of person who is always open to new ideas and experiences. I am the “why not?” kind of person. I am restless and feel guilty if I am not preparing a talk or writing a blog post, an article, or a book. I also feel guilty if I am not actively involved with a teachers’ association. If you are reading this, you are probably like me. We are avid seekers of professional development and networking opportunities. And we do all this in our free time – in my case on top of my 40+ weekly work hours.
However, to reach a relatively good work-life balance, we also need to slow down sometimes and say no. We need to take care of ourselves and of those around us – spend time with family and friends and make sure our hearts are in the right place, too. We cannot do or have it all. It’s no use diving deeply into all kinds of PD activities, not eating or exercising properly because we are too busy for that, and then getting sick or burned out and not being able to do anything for many days or even months. It is better and healthier to move steadily but slowly. It is also no use committing to things that we will not be able to accomplish and, thus, disappoint those who depend on us.
We also need to focus on what is most important first, and only do everything else if we really have time for it. It’s no use going to conferences, reading, writing, and networking if the next day we teach a lousy class because we didn’t have time to plan properly, for example. After all, everything we do professionally should be for the sake of our students. If we’re not doing it for them, we are doing it wrongly or we are doing the wrong thing.
Also, it is essential to choose what to focus on and what professional development activities will lead to the growth we are seeking right now. This helps us decide what we will read, the conferences we will attend, and the talks we will go to. It helps us stay focused and decide what to say no to. When I was working on my doctoral thesis on second language writing, this is what I read and attended talks about. Were there other things I needed to learn? Yes, of course! But if we want to learn everything, we end up not learning anything at all.
I recently participated in a professional assessment interview and was asked how self-demanding I was, on a scale of 1 to 10. I was happy to say, “I used to be a 10. Now I’m an 8!” I don’t want to be a ten anymore. I want to be able to say, “Stop!” and “No!” when I feel that it is just too much for me! A long time ago, my Dad said to me, “Isabela, you need to be a little irresponsible sometimes. You demand too much of yourself!” Well, it took me many years to understand what he meant by this. Now I think I do!