Tag Archives: deadlines

Learning to say no

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One of the things I needed to do this year was learn how to say no.

As a freelancer, I find it difficult to turn down assignments. In all the years I’ve been freelancing (and I’ve been a freelancer for a long time, from the time my daughter was born, and she turned 21 back in December), you could count the number of times I turned down assignments on one hand.

But so far this year, I’ve turned down several assignments – more than I’ve done in all my previous years as a freelancer combined. The easiest were those that offered a fee far less than I usually charge. The hardest were the ones from favourite clients, people I enjoy working with. I’ve also had one failed attempt, where I said I could, but the deadline had to be extended by a few weeks. Unfortunately, my client did exactly that.

In previous years, I would have just said “yes” to all of them, and then did the whole grin and bear it thing while I slogged through all the deadlines. But I’m finding I can’t do that any more. I seem to get burnout a lot quicker these days. And I can’t seem to handle the stress of too much work very well now, either. My back hurts, or my neck hurts, or my stomach hurts, or my head hurts.

My body’s been trying to tell me something.

And I feel like I’m finally listening. Yes, it’s taken me a while.

When 2015 came I said I was going to stop the insanity of continuing to do the same things and expecting a different outcome. Learning to say no is part of the process. There are other steps to be taken: with the type of work I’m doing, it’s often feast or famine. But I’ve mentioned before, I’ve noticed things smoothing out over the past two to three years. When I look back, I see that the “famine” periods have been more like dinner, or lunch, or sometimes, a snack. Never just a coffee, though.

And there are things I can do to continue this trend away from famine periods. It does feel counter-intuitive to me sometimes, but turning down assignments when my schedule’s already filled to the brim is the first step. Doing so let’s me keep my health, my sanity, my energy, so that when the deadlines slow down, I have the ability to focus on getting new clients, getting new work, launching new ventures.

Saying “no” is hard. But I’m finding I learn a little something more each time I do.

I’m Back!

And where, you might be asking, have I been? With no word on this blog about my departure?

Actually, I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been here:


That’s a picture of our dining room table, which I’ve commandeered for the past month or so in order to work on what I’m calling now The Project From Hell. Initially, I’d clear things off tidily whenever dinner was ready to be put on the table, but this past week, as I raced to finish up, we’ve been eating at our little kitchen table.

And I’m kicking myself because I actually chose to do this project this way. Normally I say no to updating an existing index, as I prefer to compile my own from scratch. But this project was massive, in a subject I’m not very familiar with, so I decided it would be better to do an update. I wasn’t forced into it (sometimes that happens – a client thinks it will be much cheaper to “simply” update an old index). My lovely editor gave me the choice of updating or creating a totally new index. I just happened to make the wrong choice. And that’s why this project turned into the Project From Hell.

Those of you not familiar with freelancing, having a project take over your life as an impending deadline looms (in this case, looms and then is past, landing me in extension-land, for the very first time since I became self-employed, which is to say, for the first time in more than ten years) is an occupational hazard. No matter how experienced you are – and I am very experienced at what I do – the occasional project will throw you for a loop.

This one was a virtual rollercoaster. I enjoyed parts of it (very small parts, in hindsight). And I learned a big lesson. Never take on this type of project again!

So if you ever hear me talk about possibly updating an index anytime in the near or far future, please say to me, “Remember that Project from Hell?”

That should do the trick.

What’s Up Sunday – June 14

I normally post this as “What’s Up Saturday”, but yesterday kind of flew by really quickly, especially since I was behind on the big giveaways post.

Deadline Alley

I’m heading into Deadline Alley over the next ten days – I have five deadlines to lay to rest and I’d like to get everything finished by next Wednesday. That will leave me a day to help my husband pack for our road trip, get our housesitter settled in, make sure there’s enough pet food on hand to feed the assortment of pets and well, just de-stress a little so I’ll enjoy the 19 hour drive to the beautiful shores of Nova Scotia!

Currently Listening

This past week I’ve been really enjoying listening to Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein. It’s the first book in a mystery series about part-time beach resort town cop Danny Boyle and his partner, John Ceepak; Beth F. recommended the audio version of the series to me, and I am very grateful (if you love audiobooks, check out Beth F’s blog; she always has great suggestions). The narrator of the series, Jeff Woodman, has now been added to my own personal list of great audiobook narrators (joining Lorelei King, who narrates Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Hugh Fraser, for his narration of the Agatha Christie novels, and Jim Dale, narrator of the Harry Potter series).

I’ve been actively on the look-out for good audios primarily because of the 19 hour drive (I can’t read in a car, unfortunately); the other day on Twitter Miriam Parker from Hachette Books suggested that I give Bill Bryson a try, and ever since then I’ve been walking around the house sounding rather demented because every now and then I’ll give out a big burst of laughter. Listening to Bill Bryson in audio will do that to you.

Right now, I’m listening to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself; my version is actually called Notes From a Big Country, which you can buy at Amazon UK. Notes From a Big Country has eight more essays than I’m a Stranger Here Myself (I have both titles in trade paperback, so I counted); otherwise, they contain much the same essays (I didn’t do a title-by-title check, though).

If you have an Audible membership, you’ll be getting Notes From a Big Country if you go for the unabridged version; unfortunately, Bill Bryson only reads the abridged version, but William Roberts, the narrator of the unabridged version, does a pretty good job. This listen is, obviously, a “reread” for me (since I ended up buying both versions of the book, it would be pretty sad if it wasn’t!); Bill Bryson’s books are brilliant and very funny reads whether you get them in print or in audio.

This Week: No Picture, but a Video

Rather sharing a picture from my life this week, I wanted to share the following video, called Validation. I discovered it at my dear friend Bethie’s blog, Simply Blessed. It’s a long video – 16 minutes – but I guarantee, if you have the time, and you’d like something to give you a bit of a lift and put a smile on your face, it’s well worth the watch. It was written and directed by Kurt Kuenne, stars TJ Thyne (of Bones fame), and has won a whole string of very well-deserved short film awards. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!