Having just posted on the value of proactive service (Don’t Wait to Be Asked), I now feel free to provide advice on declining to serve. Sometimes “no” is the right answer.
I used to think that I had to provide an explanation or excuse for saying “no”. Then I had an epiphany, and realized that this isn’t necessary. A simple “I’m sorry, no, I can’t do this” is sufficient. I’ve never had someone cross examine me on why I can’t.
Really a simple yes or no is all that the person who asked cares about. They don’t want to hear about how many papers to review you have stacked on your desk; they just want to know if you can do their review.
This realization makes saying “no” so much easier. Perhaps too easy. 🙂