We all take on projects and commitments simply because we don’t think we can say no. We let fear of missed opportunities or judgment from others sway us into believing we should accept new obligations whether we truly want to or not. But saying yes to these “shoulds” can leave us feeling overcommitted, spread thin and burned out, warns executive coach Regan Walsh in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

Rather than taking on obligations simply because you think you should, she advises holding out for opportunities that are an immediate “yes!” Walsh says you should ask yourself the following question before taking on a new commitment:

  • What is my motivation?

Walsh notes that employees who are motivated by intrinsic factors like curiosity and fulfillment are three times more engaged than those motivated by extrinsic rewards such as praise, money or prestige.

  • Does it align with my values?

Walsh recommends first creating a worksheet to determine and fine-tune your core values. In the first column, list the things that matter most to you, such as spending time with family or having the financial security to retire early. Be specific and list at least five things to reflect the different facets of your life. Label the other three columns with your resources: money, time and energy. Evaluate how much of each resource you expend on each value. When considering a should decision, use the worksheet to evaluate whether the commitment will eat up resources that you want to allocate elsewhere.

  • Do I have a choice?

Walsh says too many of us look at our calendars, see a bit of free time, and commit to something before considering whether it fits our intrinsic motivations or values. While every job contains some unpleasant aspects, it’s important to recognize that even things that don’t feel optional often are.

See the full HBR article: “Before You Agree to Take on New Work, Ask 3 Questions.”