Did you start this year off with big goals? Did you set aggressive growth targets for your sales? Are you thinking about writing a book, working on some speaking topics, or taking a big trip with your family?
Well? It’s February. How are you doing on those goals? Have you made significant progress? Enough so you are “on track” to complete or exceed them? If not I’ve got one word for you:
That’s right, the word is “No”–and you’d better start using it.
Why, Brad? What makes you say that?
Well, I could answer that, but I think this quote says it better:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” ~Warren Buffett
If you’ve known someone really successful, you know this is true. I know of a really, wildly successful academic. His admin spent most of her time fielding calls for this man to speak and write and research for so many different organizations, while he sat on his computer, writing. He was serious, thoughtful and selective about his goals; and vigorously defended himself from any claims on his time and energy that would interfere with them.
If you, too, are serious about your goals–if it’s really important to you to achieve them–then you need to clear the decks in order to make progress. Most people fail to achieve goals because of one of two issues: either they don’t commit the time and energy to completing it, or they get distracted. If you don’t want that to be you, then you need to stop doing some things you have been doing, and you need to say no to some new opportunities that are coming along.
What to stop doing?
If you have important things that need doing — but aren’t getting done — then you need to focus on your work and delegate everything else. Your work constitutes those things that only you can do. Your work requires your knowledge, experience and connections. Bookkeeping is not your work, neither is cleaning up the office, or re-writing the deliverable for the 4th time (just to be clear).
Good litmus test—are you: • Spending enough time with your spouse? • Your family? • Sleeping enough? If not, don’t say yes to more things.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) February 7, 2015
I know that it’s not as easy as “just saying no”. Someone has to do these things. But if you want to reach your goals, you’ve got to make some space to do it! So we need to find someone else to do all that other stuff. Some things are easy: hire a bookkeeper and you are no longer the bookkeeper. Other things are more difficult: you are re-writing the deliverable for the 4th time because you have tolerated poor results from your team and now it’s too late to get them to finish it. Changing that will require you to ask more of them next time, and establish some consequences if they fail.
What new opportunities should you say no to?
I’m tempted to say all of them; but that’s not realistic, right? And yet, if you have really important goals, then you have to say no to anything that’s less important than the goals you have set. The biggest threat to your goals is distraction from some new shiny object — so to stay focused and accept ahead of time that you will have to defer those things.
I know it’s scary to say no to new opportunities. I mean, “What if this is the one? The one opportunity that’s going to bust things open for me?”. Just take a minute and look back. How many times have opportunities like that come along? If you’re honest, you’ll recognize that, yes, there have been a lot of things that looked really great. And, not many of them lived up to that initial expectation. What if reaching your important goals is the thing that is going jettison you to wild success? Can you just delay the new opportunity and pick it up once you have actually met your important goals?
If not–if this opportunity is really that huge–then by all means go for it. But be realistic, and stop work on the other goal you are pursuing. If your dream client comes along, put writing the book on hold — just don’t try to do both.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun!
I feel your pain. It’s true. This won’t be easy and probably won’t be fun.
But you know what is fun? Completing your goals! Having that significant and completed project behind you instead of hovering over you like a cloud! It’s also tons of fun being a person who has a realistic work load; being a person who can say “yes” to family and friends and get away from the office to be with them on significant occasions. It’s actually fun to have the flexibility that focus gives you.