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The uselessness of YES

14th July 2021

One common problem that affects work, relations, and life in general, is to answer "YES" to everything.

The chain of though might differ from person to person, sometimes you say "YES" because you want to help, sometimes you want to feel useful, or you might fear that saying something else is an invitation for conflict.

Independently of the reason, if the end result is sacrificing your time and mental health for that, then it might not be as important as you think.

Trying to think how do I handle this issue, I had to consider what goes through my mind when this kind of situation arise. Then the answer for that, actually, came in form of questions.

There are some questions that I ask myself before give any answer, and I tried to express them in word to create a guide that might be helpful for you, and the next time you can use them instead of a simple "YES" or "NO".

The main scenario is when someone asks you "Can you work on this?"


In this first part I'll give a quick advice on what do I mean with the questions and where I want to go with each one.

Do you know how to do it?

Depending on this answer you might have a clear idea on how much effort will require to complete it. Or on the other side you are facing the unknown, then that by itself is extra effort that you need to consider, plus completing the task.

Is it more important than what you are doing?

If you are busy with something else you need to ask what is more important, this will help you decide if you should put it on future work, so you can focus on what you have, or if is so important that you might need switch the task from your schedule, and by switching it means to put on hold or delegate to someone else what you are doing in favor of the new task.

Do you think someone else knows how to do it?

This question is relevant when the requested task is important and/or you don't know how to do it. Part of being a team is so you can rely on others when is needed. If you are busy maybe someone else can take it, if is important then someone with more background will be a better suit for the task.

Can you do it in less than 10 minutes?

After answer the other questions, there might be cases when you know that the task is simple and will require a couple of minutes to complete, then this might be the only case when a simple "YES" is a good answer. But make sure that this kind of tasks doesn't become so regular that they end up having repercussions on your other tasks.


In this second part, I'm completely aware that explaining the questions lacks impact and information, but that's because if I tried to explain every and each scenario it will be more confusing than helpful. So for this case we can use a decision tree, which I consider will be 10 times better than just words.


I tried to represent what goes through my mind when handling this kind of decisions. But not all projects and people are the same, so I encourage you to change, add, or remove the questions; do whatever you need to build your own decision tree.

By simply saying "YES" to requests without thinking the consequences you are accepting free troubles. If not handled correctly it will have repercussions in your health. If you have troubles delivering, your project and peers will have to face the consequences of those troubles.

But if you take your time to think the answer and consequences, and create a plan for it, it doesn't just prevent all of the previous issues, but also shows the amount of experience, and compromise you have with the project and your team.

And lastly, I highly recommend to remember; we have a limited amount of time, in the day, and in our life, so start thinking how to make the best of it, not for others but for yourself.

Web developer / likes to make animations, comics, and more.

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