Time is a finite resource, so if we want to achieve great things in life it is vital to guard our time well. One trick to ensure time is not wasted is to learn to say no faster to things that doesn’t support our long-term objectives.

Go one inch wide and one mile deep

– Unknown

Building momentum by concentrating your efforts

Pulling a big boat in its ropes into the dock might not seem possible for people without experience from big boats, but having been a combat boat pilot myself I can tell you that if you just keep pulling in one direction hard and long enough, the boat will eventually start to move as you continue to build momentum in one direction. Similarly, I believe that if you use your time to make only small improvements in 100 different areas versus making 100 improvements in only one single direction your efforts risk going rather unnoticed instead of really making you stick out from the vast majority. So, if you want to really make noticeable progress in an area, concentrating your force like pulling in a big boat is the way to go.

A kick-ass half is better than a half-assed whole

– David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason Fried

An example of saying no faster in favor of building momentum

I think most people agree that Apple changed the world of Smartphones with its iPhone. Yet Apple waited a relatively long time to enable such a basic feature as MMS. A no brainer to add for many, but something Apple decided to say no to in favor of another priority. Apple realized that saying yes to something meant saying no to something else.

Poor mission statements disable the no-saying process in favor keeping people busy

Being on top of your priorities is of course when you can start saying no to things. In big organizations, this can be a challenge. In Greg McKeowns book Essentialism. Greg compares the mission statements of three different global corporations. He explains first the companies names and what they do, then he reads the mission statements and makes the reader guess which statement belongs to which company. It is really impossible to guess because they all say they will be profitable, have excellent quality and care a lot about their employees according to their respective mission statements. When it comes down to making priorities with these mission statements as a support, they are worthless. They basically state that the company will focus on/prioritize everything equally, which only works in the theory of course.

The one thing to take away

There are only so many hours in the day and in order to make progress that matter on the important project(s), you have to learn to say no faster and with grace. Make sure you really understand what you have to give up if you say yes.

Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comment section below!