The Focus to Say No

The most powerful skill you’ve never been taught is focus.

We all have the same number of hours in a week. The difference is how we use them.

Saying no to mediocre opportunities is easy. Saying no to good opportunities is hard. The difference between average results and exceptional ones is what you avoid. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

The Hidden Cost of Yes

While yes is easy to say, it’s hard to live. More than a decision, saying yes creates an obligation.

Saying yes to a project, a meeting, or a request commits you to something that’s often larger than you think. And things you say yes to have a habit of growing.

Confusing speed and velocity causes trouble. When you say yes to something it should move you closer to your destination. Sometimes we say yes to things that just move us in a circle — we work hard but we don’t get anywhere.

Saying yes to a request feels good in the moment. We want to be the type of person that helps someone. But saying yes carries a cost. One that’s often paid in the days, weeks, or even years in the future. What starts as a single meeting becomes a weekly one. A small project becomes a large one. Drinks with colleagues after work quickly turns into a weekly habit.

While saying yes consume time, saying no creates time.

Saying no is hard. Nobody knew that better than Steve Jobs, who said:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.

Saying no is like saving your money in the bank, whereas saying yes is spending it. Most of us are on overdraft. Before you say yes, ask yourself if it’s necessary.