The Art of the Punt
March 13th, 2017
At the risk of overusing a football metaphor, let’s pretend you have a goal. (It can even be an actual goal if football is your thing.) You want to keep moving toward it, unwaveringly, without detour. But to get there, sometimes you have to back up, reassess the strategy, and refocus your energy productively.
In football, we get four chances to hit a milestone. On the fourth chance, you can choose to reassess instead of blindly moving forward toward disappointment. (And yes, I know miracles happen and sometimes going for it on the fourth down makes sense. But it usually doesn’t.)
In the context of your creative career (especially in the context of this blog post), your goal is a creative project you really want to do. That’s important. The goal can’t be something you don’t want to do. It has to be something that complements your overall creative and professional goals. You have to want it.
If you’ve got one of those potential projects—one you really want to do—but you know deep down in the depth of your honest soul that you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do the project justice, what should you do?
One option is to say yes and figure it out, probably by sacrificing sleep, other commitments, and possibly the quality of the work.
A slightly better option is to punt the project. Punting is saying yes—but on your own timeframe. So instead of a simple, “Yes! I’d love to!” especially if you know that “yes” isn’t your best option, try these responses instead:
“I’d love to! I have availability beginning in about six weeks. Does that work with your timeline?”
“Oh, I wish I could. Unfortunately, I don’t have any capacity at this time. Can we revisit your request in the future?”
“Unfortunately, I can’t say yes right now. I have to say, ‘not yet.’ Can we revisit this in the future when my availability changes?”
“No thank you.”
In three of those options of saying no (ish), you leave yourself room to say yes at a future date. You may even commit to that date as part of your answer. (See the first option.) But that assumes you want to say yes. If you want to say no, say no. Clearly. Without an “ish” attachment. Just say no. Or no thank you. You don’t have to be mean about it. But you don’t have to lie either and claim to be totally disappointed that you have to say no.
But if you want to say yes, but you can’t because of other professional commitments or other personal commitments, you don’t have to say no. You can say “not yet,” and effectively punt your yes to a point in the future when your yes can be enthusiastic. And when it can actually work for you. Without, you know, sacrificing your sanity. Or your sleep.
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