the maybe snowball

The ‘maybe snowball’ [PMP #147]

Every day we get bombarded by emails, ideas and incoming work requests. Some of these things may be worth your time but most of it probably isn’t. The trouble is that we’re social animals and love to please people. This is why we so often say ‘Yes’ to things we really shouldn’t be doing.

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Derek Sivers famously said: No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no”. In other words, unless your response to an idea or request is ‘HELL YEAH, I want to do that’, you should just say ‘no’. This frees up your time and energy for the few things that you really want to do.

Removing ‘maybe’ from your vocabulary and making quick decisions reduces decision fatigue and more importantly, frees up your time and energy for the things that really matter.Click To Tweet

The trouble is that when ideas and requests come our way, we often don't make any decision at all. We postpone the decision and get stuck in ‘maybe land’.

Your mental inbox starts to fill up with all this ‘maybe stuff’ that we’ve neither committed to or have rejected and this takes focus away from the things that really matter.

This ‘maybe stuff’ slowly piles up like a snowball rolling down a hill. You start getting chased by people who are following up with you to get an answer.

Before you know it, you start saying things like: “Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. I’m just so busy”.

The snowball grows and so big you start running away from it. All this ‘maybe stuff’ gets to be too much.

The irony is that in the end, we usually end up saying ‘no’ to the ‘maybe stuff’. If only you’d just said no from the start, we could have avoided all this unnecessary stress (the worst kind of stress).

So here’s my advice:

Remove the word ‘maybe’ from your vocabulary.

When you’re faced with a decision about an email, request or idea, give a simple yes or no answer. Follow your gut and do what you think is right.

This is easier if you have a set of rules that help you make decisions.

For example:

  • If someone emails me asking to be on my podcast or write a guest post, it’s an instant ‘no’. It’s just a policy I have, nothing personal.
  • If someone emails me asking to get information about my consulting services or asking about price, I send them a link to book an introductory call. I don't attempt to learn about someone over email. The deal is, if you want to work with me, we get on the phone. That’s just the way I do things.
  • People often ask me to review and make a video about their app. I only want to talk about things I know or use, so these emails get a polite ‘no’.

Okay, so realistically you sometimes need to think about things before giving an answer. I get that. I often have an idea and will need a few days to decide if I’m going to do it or not. A few months ago I wrote about whether you should have a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list or not. In the post, I recommend limiting your someday list to 5 or 10 items so that it doesn’t get overrun with all this ‘maybe stuff’. You could also put a time limit on your ideas. So if something is a ‘maybe’ for more than 3 days, just say no and move on.

If something is really important it’ll come up again. Or if it’s a really good idea, I won’t stop thinking about it.

You’ve probably heard about decision fatigue before. It’s this idea that every decision drains us of a bit of energy.

Removing ‘maybe’ from your vocabulary and making quick decisions reduces decision fatigue and more importantly, frees up your time and energy for the things that really matter.

Try is this week and let me know how you get on!