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This is the very first step to an efficient time management: LEARN TO SAY NO (please!)

I said I would share a second thought about time management and I will (read: So, you don’t have time? Buy it). Actually, it comes from a comment a good friend of mine gave me recently:

Successful people know that they have to say NO, more often than they say YES. The best CEOs, Leaders, Parents, Entrepreneurs do it.

LEARN TO SAY NO. I know you might think it sounds like old-news. Perhaps it is, but that’s interesting because it keeps valid even though. In fact, I believe the advice is more valid and makes more sense, as you grow older. Let me tell you why.

Endless time?

During youth, we do not care too much about time, it seems infinite then. So, it feels fine to say YES to every possibility. We don’t want to miss anything and everything seems worth to be pursued.

The problem is that many of us tend to grow as YES people. We keep trying to be everywhere and do everything. But think about it:

Is it possible to pursue everything?

If you pursue everything, what really happens is that you are not really pursuing anything. At least not as hard and focused as you could.

By saying YES all the time, we miss the benefits of saying NO (e.g. focusing and direction). I think this is true while young and critical as you grow older, because let’s face it: time is not endless.

Wasting “yesses”

James Altucher mentions that during years he said yes to too many things, not all of them necessary or really important. So, he “wasted yesses” (read Using the 5/25 Rule to Learn to Say “No”). So, he started to be more careful with his yesses, by saying no more often. But how to know when to say yes and when to say no?

By prioritizing: the art of saying no. Pure time management.

But, as I said before I rather to speak from my experience.

I prioritize, therefore I am

I continually find myself thinking that if I would have the clarity to say NO earlier in life, I could have more time to focus on certain things with more passion and heart, eventually becoming an expert on those things sooner or getting earlier to the point I wanted to be

It took me time to see it. The first time I prioritized was when I was 27. Then, it turned out that many of my “goals” were either good intentions, fantasies or nice-to-have­ ­–things. So, I made some sort of decluttering and ended up with no more than 8 things I really wanted to pursue.  By doing this, I emptied my brain of useless thoughts, drained anxiety and focused better.

Focused better on what? On the things I really wanted to be, do, or get. I did not want to waste any more yesses.

From then on, I started to say NO more consciously and more peacefully. For example, here are some things I’ve said NO in the last 5 years:

  • Not added-value friendships: I will not continue trying hard to maintain old friendships just because I know them from way back. Now, I ask myself constantly: would you try to make friends with that person if you just meet him or her today? If the answer is no, then I don´t spend any more energy on that friendship.
  • Living abroad: I used to wish moving to a different country every 5 years for all my life. Not anymore, and I am happy with it.

Here are some others:

  • Study a PHD
  • Go 2 hours to the gym every day
  • Be a country singer
  • Write a book
  • Play football 3 days a week
  • Open a foodtruck
  • Develop my own beer brand
  • Build a house out of containers

Now that I said no to all these things, I use my time better and take sound decisions towards the few things I’ve said yes to. Most important, I am clear about what really matters.

My contribution: be in peace with it.  

Prioritizing does not mean to stop exploring things. You just need to be in peace without all of them as priorities. Enjoy them when happen by chance and without the stress of pursuing them. Be clear about your priorities and be in peace with it.

Me for instance, I had just returned to guitar lessons, knowing that it will steal some of my family time, but conscious that I am just trying something I like and if in any moment I must leave it, it won’t hurt. I have made my peace with it, because I have the important things in place, like my family time.

The beautiful thing: it applies the same at home and at the office. Guaranteed.

Prioritizing is saying NO to secondary goals and it is a preventive way to manage your time. Time is precious, so give it to those things that you love, want or wish the most and you’ll see results (read: Ryan Robinson).

Try it and let me know what happened.

What are your two cents on this? Please share. 

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Important: I don’t say we shouldn’t explore during youth and I am not saying we should not do it as adults neither. At the end, one of the secrets of a fulfilling life is never stop pursuing. However, we need to be clear about our objectives.