The following is an extract from my popular ebook, Guidelines. This is one of the guidelines I really try to live by. Even now, I still struggle to follow this rule, but when I do, it really helps me to focus on what matters most.
We all know we should prioritise and focus more on the important tasks. Part of this means learning to say no. It’s very easy to get preoccupied with every new idea that enters your head. It’s even easier to get distracted by seemingly important requests from colleagues, friends and family. Learning to say no is one of the most important skills you’ll need to master in order to hone your ability to focus.
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Greg McKeown notes the following in his book Essentialism:
“The point is to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter. It is to say no—frequently and gracefully—to everything but what is truly vital.”
So you see, it’s by saying no that you can give yourself the freedom, the time and mental bandwidth to focus on the more important tasks. The tasks that really matter and that contribute significantly more towards your desired outcome.Saying 'no' to the unimportant is essential for creating the time and space to focus on what mattersClick To Tweet
In their book, Rework, Basecamp founders note:
“Start getting into the habit of saying no—even to many of your best ideas. Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes.”
Learning to say no is a discipline. We say yes because it’s easier than facing a moment of awkwardness that can come from saying no. But in the long-run, when someone approaches you with a request, you’re doing that person and yourself a disservice by committing to something you shouldn’t be doing.
This is exactly why Tim Ferriss, author of the New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week, challenges readers to say “no” to absolutely everything, simply to practice the art of refusal:
“Refuse to do all things that won’t get you immediately fired. Be selfish. Get comfortable with saying “no”.
When you start saying “no” and free up more time for essential work, you’ll be amazed at the relief and productivity that results from this greater sense of focus.