Jedi Mind Trick: Before You Say “Yes” To Something New, Say “No”
A common problem for driven, Type-A “pushers” is when quality gets sacrificed for quantity. The more you enjoy your work and the better you become at it, the more opportunities you’ll have. The temptation is to say yes, bring it on, especially if the opportunities are good ones. But as I’ve written before, you can’t do it all; something’s gotta give — whether that something is the quality of your work, health, relationships, or time for solitude and reflection.
In the moment, when you’re faced with an exciting new opportunity, that’s all there is. You see the positives, because they are in plain view, but you don’t always see the tradeoffs. A good way to bring more awareness to the decision to take on additional endeavors is to ask yourself a simple yet powerful question: If I say yes to this, to what am I saying no?
You can ask this question on multiple horizons: over the course of a day; a week; a month; or even a year. Sometimes, the answer is truly is nothing, there is no sacrifice. Perhaps you’ve got some fluff built into your schedule, or you’ve grown your capacity to do work. But more often than not, there is a sacrifice. This doesn’t mean it’s not a sacrifice worth making, but it does mean you should bring it out into the open so that you can thoughtfully evaluate it.
A good way to bring more awareness to the decision to take on additional endeavors is to ask yourself a simple yet powerful question: If I say yes to this, to what am I saying no?
Is the new project worth giving up weekend time with my partner and kids? Two hours of nightly sleep? The mentoring relationship I have with my junior colleague? The quality of my other work?
The point isn’t that the answer is always the same, but that you ask the question. Otherwise, you’re liable to find yourself on autopilot, constantly expanding yourself, until you realize that you’re about to experience a quality crash — and by then there’s nothing you can do to stop the momentum.
There’s a big benefit to mapping out your days, weeks, months, and years. Don’t worry about being overly precise, but identify the important activities and objectives. Then, when new and exciting opportunities arise, ask yourself: By saying yes to this, to what am I saying no?
Time is arguably the most precious resource there is. We ought to be intentional about how we spend it.
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Brad Stulberg writes about health and the science of human performance. He’s a columnist at Outside Magazine and New York Magazine.