Saying No is Saying Yes to a Different Question

In the past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about personal productivity. The value of my time, the importance of clarity, and the usefulness of having goals are a few things that have had a profound impact on my life. Along the way, I’ve learned a few practical tips. For instance, if the phone is ringing and I’m in the middle of something, I’ll now let it ring. I’ll check my messages when I am finished with whatever I am doing. Another example is placing reminders for your goals in a place that allows you to most effectively accomplish those goals. These are simple things to do that make a big impact, and sometimes it is good to be reminded of them.

Steve Pavlina’s Saying No reminds me that sometimes you have to say “No” in order to get things done. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to please everyone. People invite you out to a movie, your boss wants you to work late, and your girlfriend wants to go on a date. Meanwhile, you have a list of projects that you were hoping to put some dents in. You can’t do it all, so you have to realize that someone has to be told “No”. Otherwise, how can you say “Yes” to every demand on your time?

That’s the power of the word “No”. It lets you say “Yes” to something else. It is very powerful and yet very simple. In order to accomplish things, you sometimes have to decline to do other things. Another way to look at it is the idea that to make the decision to do something, you necessarily had to decide to NOT do something else. If I decide to go on a date with my girlfriend, I necessarily had to decide not to work on a game review. Obviously there are times where it isn’t black and white. We could go on a double date with some of my friends, killing two birds with one stone. But the point is that something has to be refused in order for something else to be accepted.

Knowing when to say “No” to an action is just knowing what action would be a better use of your time. You need to be consciously aware of what these important actions are because otherwise your life will be dictated by other people’s demands, not your own. If I just have a vague notion that I want to work on my game project one weekend, it can be easy to accept a date on Friday night or an outing on Saturday morning. Eventually I can find that my entire weekend has been filled with all sorts of obligations while my own vague plans just don’t happen. They can’t happen unless I explicitly and consciously say “Yes” to them, which means I have to say “No” to other demands and requests.

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