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As an instructional designer...

expect to be asked frequently "Do you have the capacity to take on another project?"

Regardless of whether a salaried or non-salaried ID, you’ll probably hear this question the most.

Whenever I’m asked, my immediate response in my head is, “it depends” and it really does! But that alone is not enough of an answer.

First, let me mention that if you're being asked this to begin with, it's a good thing

because it means your manager or client wants to make sure you’re not taking on too much or overloaded so, kudos to them!

It’s a difficult question to answer, however, because it really does depend on what you’re currently balancing and as an ID this can literally change by the hour. Timelines get pushed back (or pushed up), there’s an unexpected urgent need with a client, you’ve somehow lost the latest version of a draft you just completed, the list goes on and on!

So, what IS the best way to answer the “Do you have the capacity…” question? What’s worked for me is first knowing my limit. What is my absolute capacity? If this project fell through or two more started at the same time, how would I handle it?

Once you know that, you can be transparent to the person asking you. It may sound a little something like this “Right now I have [list of projects] and as long as they continue as projected, I’ll have the capacity to take on another [small/large] project.”

Or “Right now, I don’t have the capacity to take on anything more; however, if [project] moves in a different direction or gets extended, I may be able to take on more.”

Whatever you decide, make sure you’re honest, transparent and try not to feel guilty with not taking on everything that comes your way.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when the question arises:

  • Be honest with what you can really take on. You’re not superhuman. If you can’t do it, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.

  • Get details about the new project before agreeing. The more you know, the better you can gauge your capacity to take it on.

  • Be transparent with what you already have on your plate and how that may change. Be sure to communicate that to the person requesting your time as well!

  • It’s okay to say no! After all these years there’s still a part of me that feels guilty not honoring a request but I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t do everything and knowing that is really half the battle!

Christa Thompson, Ph.D.

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