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We are members of a group of mid-career environmental social scientists who have met weekly for a decade to give each other feedback on our research, which we wrote about in a previous column. Increasingly, we were bringing our work invitations and opportunities to the group, hoping that the members...

We are members of a group of mid-career environmental social scientists who have met weekly for a decade to give each other feedback on our research, which we wrote about in a previous column. Increasingly, we were bringing our work invitations and opportunities to the group, hoping that the members would serve as a ‘no committee’ that would help us decide which opportunities to reject. This led one of us to throw down the gauntlet: last May, facing pandemic and career burnout, this member whimsically suggested we make a game out of saying no by challenging ourselves to collectively decline 100 work-related requests.

Oliver Burkeman argues in his book Four Thousand Weeks (2021) that saying no is essential to create space and energy, so you can say yes to things that matter. Despite its importance, saying no wisely is a fundamental practice that many researchers (ourselves included) have not developed. Thus, we spent a year tracking and reflecting on our decisions to say no.

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Thanks! An excellent piece!