If there was only one “secret” you needed to know in order to regain more time in your week, would you want to know that one “secret?”
Or, if there was one thing you needed to do that could literally open up hours of time in your schedule this week (and every week), would you want to know what that one thing was?
Now, before I share with you that one thing, let me suggest that by not using this one “secret” it has cost you years of your life. You’ve spent more time than you’d care to admit doing things that you shouldn’t have been doing. And the end result of all that lost time, is a lot of lost opportunity, exhaustion and massive amounts of money that could have been yours but isn’t.
Now, with that understanding in place, do you want to know what that one secret is? Do you want to know the single fastest way to regain hours of your life each and every week so that you can actually do more of the things that matter?
Well, if you do, then here it is.
The single fastest way to regain time in your week isn’t some new app. It isn’t some new system. It isn’t something that you have to purchase. It isn’t something that you need to pay a mentor or coach to help you with. It isn’t even something that you need to watch to grasp or take to understand. You already know what that secret is. It’s something you’ve been doing and saying all your life.
The single fastest way to regain time in your week is to say …. “No!”
Now, before you leave this post thinking, “I know that,” I’d encourage you to hang with me for a moment and keep reading. You’ll understand why shortly.
I. Why This Word Matters
As a business owner/entrepreneur, chances are you often feel overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it all in. You have way too many responsibilities and everyone wants more of you. You have employees who want more. You have customers/clients who want more. You have business groups and marketing companies that want more. You have family members who want more. You have friends and colleagues who want more. Etc.
Everywhere you turn, someone or something wants more of you—yet, as your business grows, unless you make some radical changes, your business will require more of you as well (let alone you and your desires and expectations).
So, in a world filled with more, how do you handle it?
Well, the way to handle more is by doing less.
The solution to complexity is simplicity.
Before you can add, you have to subtract.
You see, unless you become a master of saying, “No!” there will never be enough relief or sanity or margin in your life. Everyone will take more, unless you choose to say, “No!”
So, what price have you paid because you’ve said, “Yes!” way too many times when you should have said, “No!”?
II. Opportunity is Not a Mandate
One of the mistakes so many of us make in our “time management” is that we think that if we can, we should.
If we’re better at a task than some of our employees and we’re not doing something at that moment when it needs to be done, we’ll often say, “Yes!”
If an opportunity arises (let’s say a new joint venture) and we can make some money on it, we often say, “Yes!” But just because an opportunity presents itself doesn’t mean we should take it.
There is always an opportunity cost to everything. When we say, “Yes!” to one thing, we’re saying “No!” to every other opportunity we could be investing our time (or money or resources) into.
Just because someone invites you or me to a networking meeting (or asks for a meeting or offers to buy us a cup of coffee) doesn’t mean we have to say, “Yes!” You and I are under no obligation to give them our time (one of our most precious resources).
Opportunity is NOT a mandate. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean we should take advantage of it.
So, how often do you say, “Yes,” when you know you should say, “No!” just because the opportunity presented itself?
III. Nothing Saves Time Like Saying, “No!”
I have a confession to make. I’m a TV addict. You’d be shocked if you saw how many shows are automatically recorded on my DVR (okay, even I’m embarrassed at the number). However, I grew up on it and it’s the one time during the day/week when I can turn my brain off and just relax. That said, this year I’ve made a conscious decision to not watch a lot of shows that I’ve watched in the past … and what I’ve viscerally experienced this year is that every “No!” saves me 42-60 minutes of time. That’s a lot of time.
Think about that. If a typical series is 22 episodes (American TV vs. BBC) and we use the 60 minute version of a show as our time frame, that’s 22 hours per show per year. Cut out four shows and that’s 88+ hours per year just regained. Cut out eight and that’s 176 hours of regained time.
Now, back to your business. If you say, “No!” to a lunch invite, you just picked up an hour and a half to two hours of time (meeting time, plus drive time, plus stopping and starting work time). What else can you do to save yourself that kind of time on a consistent and regular basis? Note: I’m not against meetings. I’m pro meetings but you get my point. You have to be very intentional about which meetings to take and which to pass on. Every one you pass on is a huge time savings.
When you get asked to be on a board or committee, it’s worth asking, “Should I just say, “No”? Why? Because of the time commitment. It’s not just board time, it’s all the prep time, it’s all of the email correspondence, it’s all the decision-making time, it’s all of the assignment time, it’s all of the research time, etc. Note: I’m not against being on a board (I’ve been on several). But they’re all a huge time suck. I just cycled off one this year and I can’t believe how much more time I’ve had this year to work on my business. It’s mind-boggling.
I’m all for time savings devices and apps (like I’m a huge ToDoIst fan), as well a time management practices, but none of those things saves time like saying, “No!” to something that could have taken up time in your day/week.
IV. Make a “Just Say No!” List
I’ve written, as have others, about creating a Stop Doing List. It’s a great practice. Think through all of the things you’re currently doing and which of them you should stop doing. For example, you might write down
- Stop checking email first thing in the morning (or all day long or every time an email appears in your inbox)
- Stop worrying about what others think about what you’re doing
- Stop telling yourself a story as to why you or your company can’t do something
- Stop spending so much time solving other people’s problems
- Stop doing someone else’s job, etc.
However, I’d go father than what you should stop doing, I’d add onto a “No!” list items that you need to delegate to someone else that you’re still holding on to. For example,
- Say, “No!” to keeping your own books (i.e. hire an accountant/bookkeeper)
- Say, “No!” to typing up the agenda’s for a weekly staff meeting (delegate it to someone else and you just add to it)
- Say, “No!” to creating all of your own marketing materials (outsource or hire someone else)
- Say, “No!” to writing all of your own correspondence (hire someone)
- Say, “No!” to compiling data (leverage other people on your team), etc.
You might also make a list of the invitations you’ll say, “No!” to. For example, you might say, “No!” to
- Networking meetings that don’t have enough people in your target market who attend
- Attending conferences or seminars that you attend every year but you know don’t add enough value to justify the time or expense (why keep attending year after year). That one “No!” could save you three or more days per year.
- Answering the phone when it rings (call them back when it’s convenient for you—and if you think it’s a call worth returning). Why waste time if the call isn’t worth your time in the first place?
- Grabbing coffee just because someone asks (especially when a ten to twenty-minute phone call or video conference call would be just as effective)
Again, I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t do any of the above. They’re simply generic options meant to stimulate your thought process. But what I am encouraging you to do is to create a list for yourself of what you’re going to start saying, “No!” to.
By the way, one of the nice benefits of having a clearly stated “No!” list is that once other people know what’s on your list, they won’t ask any more. So, for example, if you say you don’t do breakfast meetings (because you want to work on your primary projects first thing in the morning every day), then no one asks you to do a breakfast meeting. Think of how many hours that would save every year.
V. Refuse to Allow Reverse Delegation To Occur
Ken Blanchard in his book, The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, discusses the problem of reverse delegation as well as anyone. You hire an employee to do something (i.e. the monkey is on their back). They come in to ask you for help in solving a problem related to their monkey. You, out of the goodness of your heart, offer to help them with that problem (now the monkey is on both of your backs).
As you continue talking, you realize that you know someone who can help solve this problem so you say, “Joe, I’ll tell you what. Let me call Angela over at XYZ company. I think she can help.” At this point the monkey is on who’s back? Exactly, Yours. That’s reverse delegation. You hired them to do something and now you’re doing their work. Even worse, you’ve just made them the boss because who’s checking on who now? Exactly. They’re checking in with you to see if you’ve talked with Angela?” Ugh!
So, just say, “No!” to reverse delegation. It’s a great time saver!
When you hire someone to do a job, let them do their job. Don’t take it back from them. Your task as an owner/leader is to create leverage by producing results through other people (not through you).
Likewise, when an employee asks you a question, “How should I solve this?” don’t solve it for them. Ask them, “Well, what have you tried?” Or, “What do think will solve this?” Or, “When did this problem begin?” “What should that tell you?” Etc. Get them into the habit of solving their own problems. Just say, “No!” to doing their work for them. If you do that, you’ll save massive amounts of time every year.
So, why should all this matter so much to you as a business owner/entrepreneur? Because you’ll never have the time to work “on” your business if you’re too busy working “in” your business. The only way to work “on” your business is to create the space to work “on” it. And that requires subtraction before addition.
If you really want to be free, if you want to have margin, if you want to build a more scalable and successful business, if you want to have more time for the things that really matter in your life and business, then make sure you start using the power of “No!” more frequently. Make it a habit. It really is the single fastest way to regain time back in your week.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. For practice, make it a goal this week to “Just say, “No!” to at least ten things over the course of the next seven days.