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Carson Tate is author of the book Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. A professional consultant, Tate helps top executives and their teams take back control[…]

Organization expert Carson Tate suggests taking a good hard look at all the things you assume you “should” do and question why they’re so important. By seeing beyond the veneer of our “shoulds,” we can better understand when it’s best to say, “Yes,” and when it benefits us to say, “No.” Tate’s debut book Work Simply is now available.

Carson Tate: So often for many of us there are these scripts or these tapes that are going through our mind and I call them "the shoulds." Shoulds lead us to overcommitment and a calendar that is over stuffed because you feel guilty and guilt is what's really behind the should. You feel like you have to do something either because this is your vision of what a successful manager does or because it's a script, an old script that you've heard throughout your life. And so you are listening to voices or to cultural expectations that might or might not be true and ultimately might or might not be in alignment with who you are and your goals and objectives. You should say yes to this, ask to be on this board. Should bake cupcakes from scratch? You should do this; it's all of these shoulds. Well, the problem with the shoulds is that they become a runaway train and before you know it, you've said yes and overcommitted to so many things that might or might not be in alignment with your goals and how you want to live and run your life. So, whenever you feel like you've been hooked by the shoulds, I would suggest that you address them by using an acronym I call the POWER no. And by using the POWER no you step through the P and the O and the W and the E and the R and get really clear on: Is this a should that you should say yes to or you should say no to?

So the first one is the purpose question. So, what is the purpose behind this should? Who really is driving it and what is the should getting at? And then the O stands for the opportunity because sometimes a should could be shining a light on an opportunity. So you could be asked to work in a stretch assignment. This could be a real opportunity for you, so you want to listen and is there an opportunity potentially in that should that's going through your head? Then the next one is to think about the who; who is behind this should or who is making this ask of you? Is it your boss? Is it your manager? Or is it this old script that's your mom in your head? Who is this should kind of being generated from? And then think about the expectations. So what expectations are coming with this should? Is it an expectation that the star performer at work always does this or this is what a manager should do? Just really think about those expectations. Are they yours? Are they societies? Whose are they and are they really in alignment? And then the last thing I would challenge you to think about is: Is it real? So is it really true that you have to bake cupcakes from scratch? That's not true. There are much better cupcakes that are store-bought, for most of us. So you're questioning is: It real for you and is it real in your organization? Because every time you say yes to something you're saying no to something else. And the shoulds we overcommit, we say yes more than you say no and so at the end something suffers, it's either or work or our personal life.