Saying No is the first step

Ryan Holiday, 35 and 34, 36 Lessons on the Way to 36 Years Old:

As part of that, I made the difficult decision to call my publisher to push my next book a year or so. This was a massive clearance on my schedule—several hours a day did not have to be spent researching and writing on a project. Yet it was remarkable how little my life changed. Because tasks expand to fill the space, because it is so easy to say yes to other things. Less demands vigilance and discipline, perhaps even more effort than actually doing stuff.

The reward for saying no feels like saying yes to a more important thing. But you still need decision discipline after that first “no”.

Whenever I’ve heard things like “the key to serene focus and productivity is saying no more often”, it often seems like saying “no, thanks” on projects and potential work is the top of the hill. Like it’s all downhill to doing great work from there. Say no, they say, puts you on easy street to writing the great American novel/album/YouTube channel/large language model.

Alas, saying no is not one weird trick for exercising all of your decision-making and discipline in one crucial moment. Making great stuff requires many small moments of saying no. Say no to looking up that frivolous fact. Say no to the pull of social media. Say no to taking a day off your habit of making great stuff. Say no to that Oreo cookie. ☹️

Adam Keys @therealadam