Source:  Alex Vámos on Unsplash

How many times are you asked to do something and you simply reply, "Sure thing."

Simple "no" will be more productive than anything the most efficient person can muster to do. “Remember that there is no code faster than no code" is a famous old computer saying. When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.

You need to say no to whatever isn't leading you toward your goals. You need to say no to distractions. As one reader told me,

“If you broaden the definition as to how you apply no, it actually is the only productivity hack (as you ultimately say no to any distraction in order to be productive).”

Saying no doesn't mean you'll never do anything interesting or innovative or spontaneous. It just means that you say yes in a focused way. Once you have knocked out the distractions, it can make sense to say yes to any opportunity that could potentially move you in the right direction. You may have to try many things to discover what works and what you enjoy. This period of exploration can be particularly important at the beginning of a project, job, or career.

 To quote the investor Brent Beshore,

“Saying no is so powerful because it preserves the opportunity to say yes.”

The general trend seems to be something like this: If you can learn to say no to bad distractions, then eventually you'll earn the right to say no to good opportunities.

More effort is wasted doing things that don't matter than is wasted doing things inefficiently. And if that is the case, elimination is a more useful skill than optimization.

I am reminded of the famous Peter Drucker quote,

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

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