Secrets to Success: Say 'No' More Often

I'm not one for making New Years resolutions, but I made one this year: say "no" more often. I didn't make this resolution to cut people out or to come off like a jerk, I'm doing this to make myself focus on fewer, more important things.

Last year was a very busy year for me. I was able to accomplish a lot, but feel there are certain things I would like to spend more time on, or start doing altogether this year (more on this later).

Looking back on the year, there were a lot of things I agreed to do because I try to be a nice guy; I want to stay in touch with everyone and enjoy all the fun parts of living in a major city like New York. I also got married last year, so that comes with a large set of responsibilities and expectations.

So starting off 2015, I decided I need to make a real effort to focus on what really matters. Here's how I'm doing that:

  1. Valuing my time. I'm looking at how I spent my time the last few months and also noticing what I didn't have time for that I wanted to accomplish. Valuing my time was one of the most important things my father taught me. The fact that even if I'm not on the clock being paid, my time is worth something and I need to consciously decide what to use my time for. This concept is the same for my personal life as it is for my business. Is it worth taking that 30-minute catch-up meeting with a former colleague or spending 30 minutes cold calling? Should we build those new features or should we onboard new customers faster?

  • Making a conscious decision to cut out certain items and focus on others (e.g., I am reducing the number of breakfast meetings I take and moving some long in-person meetings to phone calls, I'm also reducing the number of late nights and getting up earlier each morning).
  • Putting on the blinders and executing the plan.
  • Assessing my progress. I'm making it a point to step back and assess my progress each month to make sure I've followed through on the plan, or make adjustments to the plan where needed.
  • Saying no is tough. It requires real discipline. Saying yes is easy because it doesn't require disappointing people or having difficult conversations. But time is finite and has real value, so make sure you value it. There is only so much time in a day, and it's important to focus on what really matters.

    Warren Buffett is a firm believer in this and says it this way:

    "The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say "no" to almost everything." - Warren Buffett

    I'm not here to tell you what's important and what's not. But I am a firm believer that our time on this earth is finite -- so make sure you're spending it on what really matters, and with those that you love. Don't get swept away with the pace of life, make conscious decisions on how you spend your time, and don't be afraid to have the hard conversations and say "no."