When I was doing my PhD, there was one word I didn’t know the meaning of: ‘no’.

Can you do more teaching this semester Max? Yes, sure.
Can you mark this extra pile of papers over the weekend? Of course.
Can you work for free, it’ll be good for your CV? Sure! Where do I sign up?

Three things motivated me, a fear of not getting a job at the end of my PhD, satisfying the perfectionist in me by being the best version of a PhD student I could, and fear of getting a reputation as lazy.

But what was driving it all was trying to please everyone, at the expense of my wellbeing.

Are you the same? Do you find it hard to say no?

Ask yourself why. Is it because you’re also a people pleaser?

Whatever motivates it, you need to watch out. Saying yes to everyone and everything ends badly. You burn out, give up too much of your free time, overwhelm yourself and, ultimately, end up getting a reputation for being always available. That’s not a great position to be in.

Saying no won’t be the end of the world, and it won’t tarnish your reputation. It’s an act of kindness to yourself and a way of respecting your own boundaries.

So next time someone asks you to do something and, deep down, you don’t really want to, don’t be afraid to say no.


Good luck!