on saying no

i was a pretty stressed out dude in grad school. i tried to do all things social and academic. all while was working 2-3 jobs to pay my bills and take on as little in loans as i could.

my dear friend, joel, used to see me be stressed out and one day he quoted this to me. “for every yes, you should be saying 100 no’s.“ i think he called it the monk’s rule of thumb or something. whatever it was called, since then, i have been growing in my ability to say no. at times, it becomes like an obsession.

i’ve done lots of reading about saying no and why (see links and quotes at the bottom of this post). lately, though, i’ve been thinking two things about saying no:

saying no is a productivity tool.

i don’t particularly like warren buffet, but this quote (attributed to him) is great: "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” and just like in this article, the beautiful thing about saying no is that it allows focus. some tasks, like dishes, require little focus (though i imagine st. augustine or thich nhat hanh might argue with that assertion). but other tasks, typically production or creative-type tasks really do require focus. and it’s impossible to be focused (and get into flow) if you have too many things to do. even if you’re not doing everything at once, your brain still has to deal with the fact that you have lots to do. this is detrimental to focus and without focus, productivity gets crushed.

saying no is like a muscle.

in an increasingly “connected” (hyperconnected) world, the number of things to do, watch and read are seemingly infinite. saying no, just like any other habit, is difficult to start. it’s even more difficult because it’s socially uncomfortable. but just like other habits, with practice it gets easier. once you learn how to do it (and the different ways in which it can be done), it gets easier and easier to say no and protect your time (and your mind)…

i have so much more to say about this… but for now, i’ll just leave these resources here.