There was a time when I tried to fit everything in. When ‘yes’ was my default answer to everything. A lot of it was because I wanted to. Some of it because I felt I should, and some yet again because “You never know…”. I believe the kids call it FOMO.
I’d read some article about that you should never say ‘No’ but always say ‘Yes’. It made me feel a bit guilty and that maybe I should say ‘yes’ more, so I did. Over time I’ve come to realise that encouraging people to say ‘yes’ to everything is utter BS. Unless you are financially independent, don’t have have any commitments, a partner or friends that you’d like to see, saying ‘yes’ to everything simply doesn’t add up.
Sure, saying ‘yes’ is a wonderful thing. It leads you to experiencing things you’d never come across otherwise. You meet people you otherwise wouldn’t have and most of the time it leads to lots of laughs. But it also leads to a lot less sleep, hardly any time left and at times to “I don’t really want to but I’ll go/ do it anyway”.
Nowadays I at times feel like I say ‘No’ more than I say ‘Yes’.
“Are you staying for another one?”
“Are you coming to…?”
“Can I email you and ask for advice on how to improve the UX of my…”
“Can we meet for a quick coffee and get your thoughts on…”
The reason I stopped saying ‘Yes’ to almost everything and instead started saying ‘No’ was because I had to. When you work on a startup, your time is one of your most valuable asset. Actually, it’s the most valuable asset whatever you do, but running a startup is what’s forced me to say ‘No’ more. I simply couldn’t do it all and something had to give.
Most of the things I now say ‘No’ to are because I make deliberate choices around my time. I’ve learnt what’s worth spending my time on and what’s not. And I’ve learnt that the only way I can juggle running a startup, attend events, do talks and workshops and still see my friends and family is by saying ‘no’ to more things. So in fact, whilst I’m saying ‘No’ I’m actually saying ‘Yes’ to other things. Like rather than meet a stranger for a coffee I’d meet one of my friends that I don’t see nearly enough. Rather than say ‘yes’ to that “quick” coffee or call to get my quick thoughts on something, I choose to spend that time working on one of the many things we’re rolling out, or on something that will actually bring in revenue.
I’d love to be able to give free advice to people, but right now I’m not in a position where that’s possible. I have four priorities:
- Grow and look after Glimt
- Bring in revenue
- Look after myself
- Spend time with loved ones
Anything that doesn’t fall in those four buckets I say ‘no’ to. The “Look after myself” bucket is a broad one and I’ve defined it as anything that brings me joy or rest. That means that when I feel it’s time to call it a day, that’s what I do. At times it’s at 4am in the morning and other times at 9pm.
As we grow older we get to know ourselves better. I loved my 20ies, but I love my 30ies even more. I know exactly who I am. I don’t care about what other people think as much. I’m comfortable in my own skin and even if I’m not always happy “in it”, I know my boundaries.
I know that I can pull off most that I set my mind to and that I have the stamina and am resilient to doing lots of work. But, I also know what I need to do to look after myself and even if I like on days like to day and yesterday get a little bit of FOMO, I listen to my body and act accordingly.
Today is my third day in Sofia. Yesterday I gave a talk at the Bulgaria Web Summit. Today, Sunday, I gave a workshop. I left the pub before 11pm yesterday evening and today I said ‘no’ to going out for dinner. Part of me wanted to say ‘yes’ to another drink last night and to going for dinner tonight, but after a full on week I’m in dire need of sleep and some me time where I can just be. So that’s just what I’m doing tonight before I fly back to the UK tomorrow. Just be. Me, myself and I.
Image via Flickr user Richard Winchell