Yes, I'm stealing the title from the book James Altucher co-wrote with his wife - in the last couple of months I've been in a period of great productivity, having massive amounts of business opportunities flowing into my life just based on my ability to say no, and I recently stumbled upon James Altucher and his interview on London Real, so I thought I'd make a quick reference to that title. The subject of no relates to so many areas that are important for someone who values their time, energy and willpower and who wants to be productive and focus on the right things. It's a matter of integrity and choosing the life you want, instead of life just being a ride where you're a helpless passenger.
No to what?
I think you generally already know what you should be saying no to, but maybe you feel bad saying no to other people, or you lack the self-dicipline to say no to things that are bad for you. But let me take a few examples of what I have said no to, and how it has helped me.
- No to hanging out with people you don't resonate with or going to social events you know beforehand that you won't enjoy. Ok, sometimes you have to challenge your comfort zone and try something new even though it can make you slightly uncomfortable, but a lot of times it's not about your comfort zone - its just that you could spend the time and energy on things that are ten times more likely to contribute to your life and overall goals in a positive way. If you instead go out socializing when you really feel like it, you'll be much more charismatic, and overall you'll feel the change in integrity and confidence of not wasting energy swimming against the current of what you want in life.
- No to things that mess up your schedule, habits and routines. Sometimes you've got to be flexible and able to mix things up a bit to get some new inspiration in life, but in 9 times out of 10, choosing to continuously chip away at your routines is what makes you reach your goals (see my post on productivity tips for how I structure reccuring weekly tasks). Being easily distracted from your day to day grind is what makes you get average results instead of outstanding results when it comes to reaching your goals either professionally or personally.
Have a clear idea of what kind of integrity you will need to be able to choose your own progress instead of things that seem fun in the moment - ideally decide upfront which things are negotiable or not on your schedule well before any situation comes up where you have to decide whether to stick to your routines or do something else.
Note that this and the last point does not necessarily mean to be less social - only that your social life should ideally fit well with your routines. You can actually get a large part of your social life scheduled - it may sound a bit "aspie" at first thought, until you realize that a lot of people engage in get-togethers that are actually scheduled weekly, without maybe thinking about it: all kinds of team sports training, band or choir practices and so on.
- No to junk food, possibly also to alcohol if you want to be at your sharpest - a night of drinking can directly make you less productive for 1-3 days, but when you stop drinking for a longer period you will also be more energetic overall, and your immune system will thank you.
Take a second to think about the difference between good food and junk food: good food will make your brain sharp so you can make good decisions on what to do and what to eat, while junk food will mess with your dopamine system and ability to make good decisions. This is an example of positive vs negative spirals in life. When you start looking for it, you can really identify which people are in an upward spiral, and those who are in a downward spiral.
- No to wasting time on streaming episode after episode of TV series instead of interesting podcasts, interviews and presentations. There's nothing inherently wrong with fiction TV, but it's incredibly easy to get hooked and to just want to keep watching the next and the next episode - that's what all the creators involved in making the shows aim for - and especially when using a streaming or on demand service where the content is seemingly limitless. If you instead fill your time with as much inspiring content from interesting people as possible, you'll feel the increase in motivation to go back to work! Listening to interviews, podcasts, presentations and lectures, you obviously learn a lot of new stuff - but in my eyes the biggest return is this inspiration and motivation you get from listening to intelligent people who have passion for what they do and talk about. Often you can let those play in the background while working on something (just make sure you don't get too distracted). Listening to non-fiction audiobooks is also great for learning and inspiration.
- No to wasting time on the negative sides of social media such as pointless political discussions that lead nowhere except to you having wasted lots of time and energy. If you do use social media, I recommend unfollowing any people that are stuck in chronic complaining mode or who always post polarizing political content. It's ok to discuss concrete, possibly local, tangible political issues, or issues related to your particular field, but 99 cases out of 100 are these never-ending ideological discussions where everybody already knows all the arguments of both sides but still keeps flaming each other forever - totally pointless.
This is so internalized for me that I didn't think about it until I was about to hit the publish button for this post. For about two years I've been unfollowing any negative people, and it's really important for me. You've got to conciously choose which energy to have in your life, the same way you wouldn't invite people over repeatedly if they continuously made you feel less positive or energetic.
- No to the constant static of things that come up and want to disrupt your flow, whether it's email prompting you to take certain actions or certain menial tasks that "should be done" - if they aren't important to your goals, learn to either 1. handle them as effectively as possible, 2. to skip them entirely, or 3. to accept them as they are, in their inharmonic state, for a while as you have more important tasks at hand. Limiting and batching email checking is a really common exampe you've probably heard of already. But the same principle can be applied to a lot of things - and later I'll write a more in-depth post on how to prioritize your time.
So how do you say no to other people?
Distinguish between your closest friends and your acquaintances (family relations vary a lot so judge for yourself on that one). If a close friend needs your time or help because of temporary problems, be there for them - only if they continuously need your help and never give anything back, it may be a good idea to choose to spend less time with them.
Realize that if someone wants you to do something and you say no, it's their problem. You don't always have to give an explanation. Depending on your personality, you may feel better trying to come up with some kind of excuse - but if the other person tries to find ways around the excuse, you'll have to extend the excuse or come up with a new one - it's just a matter of time before you feel like a liar. "No, I can't" can be enough, or any honest reason that cannot be "circumvented" by the other part, such as "I am sorry, I have to prioritize other things right now".
At the very least, you can always ask for more time to think things over. If someone is urging you to come up with a committing answer right now, stay calm and ask for time so you can make a balanced decision instead of a hurried one.
For more tips on how to say no to other people, please see the book mentioned at the top of this article or read this blog post at zenhabits.net.
How do you say no for yourself?
Have a clear vision of the benefits in health, progression, finance, confidence and so on that will come from doing what you know is right. Stay on target. Enjoy the feeling of having full control and responsibility of your life when making good decisions and sticking to them.
Also learn to identify your weak points. If you usually make bad decisions for example when hungry or tired, learn to step back when catching yourself being hungry or tired and about to make a decision, and solve the underlying reason for why you might be tempted to make a bad choise.
When not to say no
Taking the above too far, there is a risk of getting stuck in a habit of saying no to LIFE ITSELF with the excuse that you're "working on your business", which makes it impossible to attract or build a life where there's room for any kind of relaxing or partying because you allow no space for it to exist.
So by all means carry out the steps necessary right now to grow your business or improve yourself, but don't lose sight of the end goal and it's associated lifestyle. If you always see it as distant you'll never be ready to grasp it when it's within reach. In that sense, saying no to anything that may disrupt your progress slightly but still is a part of your overarching desired lifestyle can be a sign of a scarcity mentality.
To stay balanced, I would recommend periods of immersion vs maintenance - so in some periods you work really really hard in a certain area, then you allow some space for recharging, reflecting on your progress and re-evaluating your goals, where you don't need to put as much work in - you're just keeping things afloat. You can do this to cycle what is in your main focus at different times depending on your needs, for example focusing mainly on business for a couple of months followed by focusing hard on exercising and socializing for a couple of months, while spending just enough time on your business to keep it afloat. This way its easy to motivate to yourself and others that you'll be a bit busy for an intense period, knowing that you will soon switch to different priorities.
Sometimes of course it makes sense to work hard on some new business idea for several years, but just make sure to not get stuck in it unless that's your desired lifestyle. Ideally you're really passionate about your idea and willing to work really long hours day after day, thrilled to wake up each morning - but then that should be a part of your vision (and there's nothing wrong with that), don't dilude yourself that soon you'll be spending half the time on a sunny beach drinking umbrella cocktails if that's not the type of person you are.
Stay strong, say no to too much bad habits, bad food, negative influences and negative people that suck the life energy out of you and you'll dramatically improve your chances of living up to your potential - but don't take it as an excuse not to experience life.
Hope you liked the post, talk to you soon