You can hack how productively you spend your time, but you can’t hack the amount of time you have in each day.
2015 was my year of No.
I stepped back from direct early-stage investing, resigned from two boards and said no to countless requests to mentor, advise, have coffee, join a panel…for one simple reason: I knew I had to focus my resources on one BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
It wasn’t easy. If I was a guy, I’d have been described as determined, laser-focused. Saying no as a chick? Well, I turned into a bit of a self-centered bitch for constantly saying no, now didn’t I!
C’est la vie. I’ve realized that multi-tasking and being a Yes person only gets you so far. Focus is what gets you into the end zone.
So here are my lessons from a year of No:
- FOMO, even when you know your BHAG is a reality. Realize that your “if only I” regret of not staying focused will ultimately squash the FOMO. And you can honestly recover from FOMO: I regret missing Carrie Hammer’s magnificent, game-changing runway shows in 2015 — so I told her so, ensuring I stay on her invite list and get invited in 2016 (and beyond).
- Focus on Plan A and only on Plan A — it makes saying No easier. If you always have a “back-up” Plan B, you’ll say yes to things that don’t get you any closer to achieving Plan A.
- More often that not, what you need to say No to, is how you’ve approached things in the past, not to the “thing” itself. Take early-stage investing. It’s an important asset class in a balanced investment portfolio however, in late 2014, I realized I didn’t have the capacity to source deal-flow, screen opportunities, make independent investment decisions and advise my current investments. Instead of outright saying no to investing in emerging technology, I became an LP in a fund (Laconia Capital Group).
- No is a complete fact-based sentence. If you feel inclined to write long detailed explanations justifying your “No” ask yourself: Why? Why do you need to justify the No to yourself ’cause if you do…you should really be assessing your BHAG, not fretting over declining a dinner or event invitation.
- If people can’t accept your No, say a prayer of thanks. You don’t need those sorts of folks in your life. As for the people who “say” they “get” your need to focus, but invade your No time with texts and nonsense anyway: switch your mobile to airplane mode during the times you really, really need to stay focused.
- The “snooze” feature of Google’s inbox is indispensable. When an email request is out of sight until it can be top of mind, focus and non-FOMO equilibrium is maintained. I snoozed many an email until “someday” — someday being determined by interest and availability. Bundling emails and only having email delivered 2x a day helps too.
- Figure out when you’re most productive — and say no to anything that invades on that time slot. For me, it is mornings. No, never, nada, don’t waste your breath asking me to meet for breakfast, a morning coffee or lunch, as from when I wake until early afternoon that time is all mine. The upside to saying no by knowing when I’m highly focused? It leaves a lot of the day to say Yes to. One of “yes” items was agreeing to host a new podcast series (BroadMic) — in the studio conducting interviews this week and on iTunes in March.
Oh, and that BHAG? I submitted by book manuscript to my editor last week. I’m the author of the forthcoming book Build Your Dream Network to be released in January 2017 by Tarcher Perigee.