Saying Yes to Less: The Art of Being Selective When It Comes to Your Time and Life

There’s a popular belief that the more a person says yes to what life offers, in any of its aspects, the more adventurous, and eventually happy he becomes.

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In the last 2 or so years, however, I’ve come to realize it’s exactly the opposite.

You should not only say yes to less, but the more successful you become, the more you should eliminate things from your life, stop doing some activities, and say no to tens of seemingly tempting opportunities daily. Why? Because you want to stay sane and actually have enough time and focus for the things that truly deserve your attention and efforts.

There Will Always Be A Lot to Choose From

At any moment of your day, and life, you’re making a choice.

Spending time with a friend now means you’re saying no to anyone else you know, including your family.

Reading this exact book means you’re not learning valuable lessons from other reads.

Going to this seminar means you won’t be attending many other inspiring events all over the world.

And so on.

That’s what life is – a series of choices. The more you choose what brings you closer to your goals and makes you happy, the better.

But in daily life, we often go for the instant gratification. Such is the case with eating junk food because it’s really tasty, and avoiding the thought that it’s a bad decision for our shape and health in the long-term (although we realize that pretty well).

Our attitude is what matters the most here.

You can’t change the fact that you’re making choices at any moment. But while some people feel bad about missing out on so many good things going on at the same time, others decide to pay their undivided attention to the activity they’re currently doing, the person in front of them, the place they’re at, etc.

That’s what it means to start living consciously.

It’s no coincidence that the truly successful and contented people live this way.

Start Saying No More Often

If you too want peace of mind but also to be action-oriented and constantly move forward in the right direction, you’ll have to let go of the ‘say yes to everything’ mindset. And start saying no instead.

Here’s what it takes:

– you’ll be removing people from your life instead of making new friends all the time, you just don’t have enough time for that;

– you’ll stop doing some of the things you’ve always been doing (although others will think you’re insane) just because they don’t give you the desired result and your time is better spent on other things;

– you’ll be selective when it comes to consuming information too. You don’t want to be overwhelmed, so you’ll be reading only so much daily/weekly and only by respected sources. You’ll stop watching meaningless videos, will unsubscribe from all newsletters, will stop checking out the news all the time, and focus on your most important tasks for the day instead;

– other people will hear you say no to them more often than usual and may even get offended. After all, it’s a form of rejection. But that’s what’s best for you and how you’ll keep your priorities straight. So it’s better to get clear about that and be direct with them;

– there’s no time for overthinking. You can’t afford to be a perfectionist anymore as thinking whether something is the best thing you could be doing for this exact moment will make you too anxious. So you just do what feels right, finish it, and move onto the next. No need to bring in more stress or to procrastinate;

– say no to good deals, so that you can say yes to better ones. That can apply to any area of life;

– constantly review your life goals and daily schedule and ask yourself the following questions:

What’s the 20% that gives me 80% of the results and what can I do to eliminate the rest?

Which of the things I do daily/weekly/monthly don’t give me enough pleasure, don’t get me closer to my goals or make my life or the life of those important to me better? (these must be removed too)

– plan your day the night before, put your 3 most important tasks on the top of your list and start working on them first thing in the morning. That’s what will get you ahead in life.

The Only Time When You Should Be Saying Yes

So when do we say yes, then?

Derek Sivers explains it best in this article:

“If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no.

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”

Now that you know that, sit down and do some brainstorming. Take your time. List down your top priorities in every area of life, then see which area matters to you more than the rest. Do something about that.

Put that list in a visible place, go through it daily so that you never forget what’s truly important in your life. And so that you don’t get lost, confused, stuck or become a prisoner of an average life with no direction.

Saying yes to less means you’re living mindfully, one day at a time, constantly doing things that improve you and are the right choice, making time only for what’s necessary and gives you result.

That’s a fantastic way to live life, and something few have chosen to do.

Some pretty successful people out there are saying no every minute. Keep that in mind.

And if you’re looking for an example that will encourage you to be more selective, read about how Tim Ferriss decided to take a vacation from investing as it became more of a burden than a productive and meaningful business venture.

“To become “successful,” you have to say “yes” to a lot of experiments.  To learn what you’re best at, or what you’re most passionate about, you have to throw a lot against the wall.

Once your life shifts from pitching outbound to defending against inbound, however, you have to ruthlessly say “no” as your default. Instead of throwing spears, you’re holding the shield.

Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in 7-out-of-10 “cool” commitments that will sink the ship.

These days, I find myself saying “Hell, yes!” less and less with new startups. That’s my cue to exit stage left, especially when I can do work I love (e.g. writing) with 1/10th the energy expenditure.”

So what’s your take on that?

What’s on top of your list every day? What can you eliminate from your life so that you can have more time and energy for the things that truly matter?

How can you be even more selective when it comes to your life, goals, money and time?

Lidiya K

Lidiya K

Author, blogger and podcaster in the fields of self-improvement and life hacking. Creator of Let's Reach Success.
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
Lidiya K

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