In 2014, every two days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of human civilization up until 2003. This massive increase in information has led to a massive increase in ideas and opportunities. The chance to do more is virtually infinite. However, when you say yes to everyone else, you often end up saying no to yourself.
Saying yes to everyone and everything can make you feel stressed out, constantly rushed and like you can never get ahead. When the day comes to an end, you know that you were in constant activity, but it’s hard to put your finger on what you accomplished. It feels like you don’t have anything to show for your time, and like you’re never getting closer to what you actually want.
It’s a matter of integrity. For example, if you want more free time to pursue your love of painting, then why sign up each and every time your child’s school asks for a volunteer? This is one small example evidencing a larger problem of not following through on what you really want.
So, how do you stop saying yes and start spending your time how you would like? Ask yourself the following questions.
1. What Do You Truly Desire?
Many people don’t let themselves dream anymore. Break out of this rut by describing your perfect day in writing. Use all of your senses — sight, taste, touch, smell and sound — to make it feel as real as possible. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? How do you feel? Read over your description and reflect on how it relates to the direction you’d like your life to go. Be bold about claiming what you want — even if it doesn’t match up with what everyone else wants or what you think you “should” want. Don’t be afraid to say no when something doesn’t align with your goals.
2. What Are Your Vital Few?
You can do many things, but the question is: What are you great at that you love doing and is also of great service to the world? What are the two or three key things that only you can do, that will move you toward your true desire? Psychologist Gay Hendricks uses the term “Zone of Genius” to explain that you actually can expand your time and are deeply energized when you do the things that you enjoy and for which you are uniquely suited. You will also get more done in far less time, and will create greater financial abundance than if you worked solely in your zone of excellence or competence. To say no, ask yourself: Could you delegate, outsource or minimize tasks that are not part of your vital few?
3. What Are Your Top Priorities?
To stay committed to the life you really want, you need a rubric through which to run all new opportunities. To start, write down all of your projects and priorities (feel free to create separate lists for work and personal life so you won’t get confused). Pick the top three priorities from each list and then throw the rest of the list away.
Remember, the energy you save by saying no to those things that aren’t feeding you or your dreams will be so much better spent on something that fuels you and moves you forward. Even if you’ve already put time and money into something, if it doesn’t fit with your priorities, let it go and laser in on that which you find fulfilling and important.
Once you have identified your goals, your talents and your priorities, you’ll feel more comfortable eliminating the items that “don’t fit.” Clearing your plate is one of the most energizing, liberating things you can do. Keeping it clear is a discipline, but a worthwhile one. You’ll get more done, you’ll feel more fulfilled and you’ll say no to almost everything.
Kate Northrup is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.