work life balance
Working Remotely Personal Development Team
May 12, 2023 - Jon A.

Maintaining Boundaries for Better Work-Life Balance as a Software Engineer

As a software engineer, you likely have a lot on your plate. From deadlines to meetings, it can be challenging to balance your workload effectively and prioritize your non-work life. One of the most important skills you can develop as a software engineer is the ability to say “no” professionally and tactfully. Saying “no” can be uncomfortable for many people, but it’s essential to maintain a healthy work/life balance and manage your workload effectively.

6 Tips for Saying “No” to Maintain Your Work-Life Boundaries

Be Honest and Direct

When saying “no” to a request, it’s essential, to be honest and direct. Explain why you’re unable to take on the task or attend the meeting. Be specific and offer alternatives if possible. For example, you could say, “I’m sorry, I’m currently working on a critical project with a tight deadline. I won’t be able to take on this task right now. However, I can help you find someone else who can take it on.”

Show Empathy

Always show empathy towards the person making the request you’re about to deny. Acknowledge their request and show that you understand why they’re asking. For example, you could say, “I understand that this is an important project, and I wish I could help. However, I’m currently working on a project with a tight deadline that requires my full attention.” This can help to show you aren’t making this decision in a vacuum.

Offer Alternatives

Offering alternatives shows that you are a team player and do want to help them out, if possible. Suggest someone else who may be able to help, or offer to help at a later time. For example, you could say, “I’m unable to take on this task right now, but I can help you find someone else who can. I am available help you with this project next week when my workload is lighter.”

Stay Professional

Always, always, always remain professional. Yes, this can be hard when emotions get in the way and your workload is already overwhelming. However, it’s essential to maintaining key relationships and professional growth. Avoid making excuses or being defensive. Instead, focus on explaining why you’re unable to take on the task or attend the meeting. For example, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to attend this meeting due to a prior commitment. I’ll be sure to review the minutes and follow up with any action items.”

Communicate Clearly

Don’t leave room for interpretation. Avoid using vague language or beating around the bush. Be concise and to the point. This can often be hard when you feel guilty or accountable for a task or a meeting you can’t attend, but saying “no” clearly will help with confusion and frustration in the long run. For example, you want to use terms like “cannot”, “won’t”, or “I’ll miss this one,” instead of terms like “I may attend”, “I might be able to find the time, or “I’ll try to get it done”.

Prioritize Your Workload

Keeping your workload prioritized is really going to help you find reasons to say yes or no to a request. Focus on your most critical tasks and projects. If you’re already overloaded, it’s okay to say no to additional requests. Be honest about your workload and communicate your priorities clearly.

Overall, saying “no” is often hard for employees who want to build their careers or genuinely like being helpful to their boss and co-workers. Unfortunately, always saying “yes” can lead to burnout and, in fact, cause you to become not helpful when you start missing deadlines. Saying “no” can be extremely powerful when you need it.