There’s always plenty to do in the world of free and open source software, but saying yes to it all eventually leads to burnout. Not every job, module or meeting is going to lead to more of the kinds of opportunities you want. When should you reinvent the wheel and when should you settle for something that’s good enough?
Some strategic planning will help you clarify your goals and evaluate tasks. Once you know where you want to go, you can more easily decide what will get you there. More importantly, you can say no to things that won’t.
A little finesse goes a long way when you start saying no to unreasonable clients, low pay, or other things that are unlikely help your career or increase your happiness in the long-run. Figuring out how to say no gracefully, helps you build and maintain good formal and informal relationships. Some verbal self-defense can help keep you from get “voluntold” or otherwise stuck with work that you really shouldn’t be doing. Clarifying your project or company’s larger goals can help you narrow the scope of tasks that seem to have no real finish line so you can get them off your plate in a timely fashion. Say No, like a boss!
Deb Nicholson works at the intersection of technology and social justice. She has over 15 years of non-profit management experience. She got involved in the free software movement about five years ago when she started working for the Free Software Foundation. She is currently the community outreach director for the Open Invention Network – the defensive patent pool built to protect Linux projects. She is also the community manager for GNU MediaGoblin, a brand new federated media hosting program. In her spare time, she serves on the board of OpenHatch, a small non-profit dedicated to identifying and mentoring new free software contributors with a particular interest in building a more diverse free software movement.
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