Yesterday, I was contemplating my “to do” list trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done. I soon realized it was not possible – there simply were not enough hours available to do it all. 

I had to prioritize. I was going to have to decide what was going to be done and what going to remain undone.

No matter what, someone was going to be unhappy with my choices.

Almost all Codes of Ethics have provisions about meeting obligations. We are supposed to honor our commitments.

Yet, sometimes that simply can’t be done.

What’s the answer?

The power of “No.”

One of the life lessons I have to keep learning is that it is better to say “no” sooner than later. It is better to not make a commitment than it is to leave it unmet. It is also better to leave ourselves some free time.

Studies have shown that when we are hurried we are less likely to act ethically (see the Related References below). When we are overwhelmed or overloaded with “to do” items, we are less likely to focus on what’s really important. We are tempted to rush through tasks and ignore problems.

Want to act ethically?  Slow down.  Say no. 

Related Resources:

An often-cited study on the impact of being hurried on ethical behalf is the so-called Good Samaritan study. It found that being in a hurry has a significant impact on whether you act ethically – even if you are a seminary student.   

Another study of nurses in Norway found that lack of resources and heavy work pressure lead to ethically difficult prioritizations and the lowering of nursing standards. (Values That Vanish into Thin Air: Nurses’ Experience of Ethical Values in Their Daily Work)

Want a new perspective on dealing with time? Check out Timeshifting by Stephan Rechtschaffen.