The ultimate productivity hack is just to say no.
Not doing something is, and will always be, faster than doing it. This statement is an obvious one, but if you’re like me you still find yourself saying yes too often.
So if the benefits of saying no are obvious, then why do we say yes so often?
We tend to agree with many requests not because we want to do them, but because we don’t want to be viewed negatively by whoever is making the request. The thought of straining our relationships tends to outweigh the commitment of our time and energy.
In order to act on the “hack” of saying “no”, we need to say no graciously. Offer whatever favors you can in a warm-hearted way, but also be direct when you have to say no.
It’s important to realize opportunity cost, as it pertains to this subject. As economist Tim Harford put it, “Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time.” It’s in our interest to guard/defend our time, because a better use of our time could present itself after we make a commitment.
No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.
Saying no is an essential skill to develop at any stage of your career because it retains the most valuable asset in life; your time. You need to say no to whatever is not leading you toward your goals. You need to say no to distractions.
What must be learned is how to say yes in a focused way. Once you’ve eliminated distractions, it might make sense to say yes to any opportunity that could move you in the right direction. We must learn to be a bit more conscious of making commitments that are aligned with our own personal interests.
The power of no is best summarized by investor Brent Beshore, “Saying no is so powerful because it preserves the opportunity to say yes.”
Another simple trick to help you implement this hack is the “Hell Yeah or No” method from Derek Silvers. If somebody makes a request and your first reaction is “Hell Yeah!”, then do it. If it doesn’t excite you, then say no.
In conclusion, more effort is wasted doing things that don’t matter than is wasted doing important things inefficiently. If this is indeed the case, elimination is a more useful skill than optimization. As Peter Drucker put it, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”