Here’s a problem that you haven’t been giving enough thought to…
We live in the age of distraction, and your life is full of time vampires.
Your beeping cell phone demands your attention. A loose acquaintance that you don’t really know very well reaches out to you on Facebook and asks to grab coffee/lunch/a leisurely walk with you. Work calls and they want you to fire off a quick email for them.
You say yes to all three of those things and BAM you’ve just lost a day of your life to inconsequential bullshit. AN ENTIRE DAY! A thing that you may only get 20,000 of in your entire life, has been carelessly invested because you didn’t have the tools or ability to say no to things that you didn’t want to do.
If you don’t slow down for a second and think about what is actually important to you and how to fiercely guard it, you will continue to be pulled in every direction and feel progressively exhausted and resentful. Unless you do the following seven things.
Learn to fiercely protect your time, and you’ll have abundant energy to dedicate to the things that make you the happiest and most deeply fulfilled.
Let’s get into it.
1. Figure out your core values first
Before you can fill your life with what you most desire, you have to figure out what those things are first.
Maybe you’re looking to optimize for certain relationships that you want to prioritize (spouse, friends, kids). Maybe you want to maximize the number of hours that you put towards your creative endeavours. Maybe you’re the happiest when you get to run/swim/exercise on a consistent basis.
Whatever it is that you’re looking to fill your life with, you have to sit, journal, and get clear on those things first.
(If you want help identifying those things, I’d recommend you read this.)
2. Put the big things into your calendar right away
Once you’ve identified what you’re optimizing for, it’s time to throw them into your calendar FIRST… before the stuff of life starts to creep in and take over.
If you’re filling up a large glass bowl, you can put in a bunch of tennis balls first, and then sand around it. But if you fill it up with sand first, there is no room for the tennis balls.
Identify the ‘tennis balls’ in your life that need to take up precious real estate in your life in order for you to be happy, and put those into your calendar first.
3. Decide what your overarching ‘No’s’ are in advance
It’s far easier to have sweeping ‘No’s’ pre-established in your life, so that you don’t burn out on decision fatigue.
For example, instead of using up precious mental bandwidth to make a decision each time an acquaintance reaches out to meet up, you can already have pre-existing structures that allow you to funnel them into your low-leverage activity time buckets.
Other examples of overarching ‘No’s’ that my clients, friends, and I have utilized in the past:
– No alcohol/No meeting up ‘for drinks’ ever
– No phone calls/meetings before noon
– No to any and all people who ask to ‘pick your brain over coffee’ without a clearly stated purpose for the meeting
– No to anything that interferes with Thursday night date night with my partner
– No to any business meeting that is longer than 30 minutes
– No to any relationships where I don’t feel seen, understood, or appreciated
You get the drift.
It’s much easier to say, “I don’t do XYZ,” then to have to say “Mmm… not this time.”
4. Learn to say no politely
Since you’ll be setting a lot more boundaries with people, it’s good to practice saying no politely.
In my world, politeness = good manners + clarity.
Say what you mean directly, without mincing words, but do so in a tactful way that lets the person know that your declining of their offer isn’t about them.
For example, I regularly reply to people in my Facebook inbox (who are looking to meet up for an ill-defined coffee meet up) by saying, ‘Hey NAME, thanks so much for reaching out. I appreciate the offer, and am flattered, unfortunately at this time, my schedule doesn’t allow any room for coffee dates. Between X OBLIGATION and Y OBLIGATION, I don’t have time to keep up with life and all of my existing relationships. Hope you understand.”
I regularly end on “I hope you understand” because this then puts the onus on them to either be understanding, or to see themselves as misunderstanding.
Alexandra Franzen has written about this better than I have and in more depth. Check out this article if you want to read more on politely declining.
5. Think of the ultimate cost of everything
Every minute that you spend has an infinite number of ways that you could potentially use it for. By spending this minute here, you are not using it over here. In economics, this is called the opportunity cost.
When people ask you to do things (whether it’s as seemingly insignificant as grabbing lunch with them, or as big as going on a week long retreat with them), think not only of what you might get from that experience, but also what the gap is between doing that and doing something else that might be even more fulfilling.
For example, I once had a reader come to me who was thinking of becoming a client. She said, “I have $1,500 tucked away for some deep-dive self-care… and I’m on the fence as to whether I should spend that money on a week-long vacation to Mexico, or doing a few coaching sessions with you.”
Ultimately, she acknowledged that the intention behind the desire to go on the vacation was stress alleviation, and since I could uproot and heal the source of her chronic stress in an hour or two, I was the better decision for her.
BUT, I was only the better decision for her because she was looking to optimize for stress alleviation. If she were looking to optimize for getting drunk off of unlimited peach margaritas (which I would have had no judgment around), then Mexico would have been the clear choice.
She made the decision based on her prioritized values, got the benefit she was looking for, and (after a single session together) still had enough money to go to Mexico with after all – likely enjoying it much more fully than she would have otherwise.
6. Prioritize your core values above all else, consistently
Do you see the pattern here?
Pick what matters most to you, and optimize only for that.
Two great books on the subject of essentialism are The One Thing by Greg Keller and Jay Papasan, and The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. Both of these are fairly business focused, but the topic still applies to all areas of your life. Most of your joy and fulfillment comes from the small, focused chunks of time where you do what you love.
Some quick examples from my life? I get a lot out of deep, philosophical conversations with my most agile-minded friends. I also get a lot out of spending ample amounts of time by myself, writing. I regularly spend a good percentage of my week swinging the pendulum between these two seemingly opposite sides of the same continuum. Going deep with people, and then going deep alone. Back and forth, back and forth.
If I ever have a week where I don’t allow myself to do either of these things, my soul withers. I don’t feel like myself. I’m cranky, I don’t sleep well, and my happiness suffers. But when I do what matters, I feel great. Just like you will too.
7. Have your sacred time of day
Show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.
If your life is constantly in a reactive state and you live exclusively for others, your tank will run dry and you will feel exhausted and resentful.
It is absolutely imperative that you carve out some of your time for yourself.
For me personally, I do best when my mornings are all for me. I wake up between 4-5:30am, write for 1-2 hours, take my vitamins and drink a green smoothie, and then my time opens up to others (for coaching calls, social engagements, etc.). I’ve been myself long enough to know that my mornings are my most important chunks of time to guard against time vampires.
Maybe that would look like a morning routine that is all about your ‘you’ time. Maybe you have a weekly ritual of engaging in self-care Sunday’s. Maybe you have a thirty minute wind down routine that you do before bed in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Whatever it is and whenever it needs to occur, it’s on you to make it happen.
Say No, Watch It Grow
It’s no secret that I have many high net worth coaching clients. The absolute biggest and most apparent difference that I see between the clients who make six or seven figures a year and the ones who make nine figures per year, is the strength, force, and frequency of their ‘No.’
The ones who are the most successful (simultaneously in love AND in work) are the ones who make date nights and monthly board meetings into non-negotiable affairs. Absolutely nothing gets in the way of them and their highest priorities.
You now have access to this mindset. You have the tools. It’s simply a matter of carrying out the action steps.
You’ve got this. I believe in you.
And if you need help figuring out your core values and prioritizing the things that bring you the most joy, I’m always available to hop on a call with you.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this post, I’d also recommend you check out: