Academia often provides several fantastic opportunities that you might not have had before (research, teaching, service, internships, etc.). These opportunities can be very enticing, but it’s easy to say yes to several and then find yourself overwhelmed. I know from personal experience. At one point, I have overcommitted myself with 10 research projects, clinical work, and several committees. Unsurprisingly, I quickly began to feel burned out. This can be especially concerning for BIPOC individuals who often engage in a lot of service and activism on top of other responsibilities to empower their communities.

These tips will help you guard your time and keep space for the best opportunities:

  1. Assess to what extent opportunities fit your goals. For instance, if you want a career as a faculty member, it likely makes more sense to engage in research relevant to your interests versus taking on several service commitments. However, taking on too many relevant opportunities is easy to do, as well. To prevent this, think about which would be the most related to your overall goals and say no to others.
  2. Make “No” your default. This can be hard, but it pays off in the long run. If “no” is uncomfortable, try something like “That sounds like a great opportunity. Let me look at my schedule and get back to you in a week.” This is a tactful way not to respond in the moment. It also gives you time to make sure that you have time for the opportunity and that it fits with your overall goals.
  3. Check your schedule to see if you could feasibly fit in the opportunity. Great opportunities can quickly turn into burdens if you pack your schedule with them. Before saying yes to something, get an estimate of how much time it will take to see if you can fit it in without negatively impacting your other work and well-being.

Nelson O. O. Zounlome, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

NASEM- Ford Foundation Fellow

Herman B. Wells  Fellow