ETC 03 – Don’t go to Meetings, Don’t Watch TV and Do Something that Scares You Every Day

escape the cubicle
don't go to meetings, don't watch tv and do something every day that scares you

Learn to love the “no”

The word “no” can save your life. By saying “no” more, by committing less, by building a reputation for being difficult, you create enough space in your life to say “yes” to the big burning issues that count.

Stop the glorification of busy

There is this Tibetan saying: the pigeon spends all night arranging its nest so it ends up not getting any sleep.

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Most people major in minor things. From the outside they always look busy.

Our society glamourizes busy.

Always going places, meeting people and on the phone.

How important they must be (or that’s what they want other people to think). The reality is they’re spending most of their time on stuff that keeps them busy, rather than stuff that produces massive results.

The myth of time management

How do I sleep less?

I’ve thought about this. I know many entrepreneur friends have asked this of themselves at one point too.

It’s the wrong question to ask.


Because it’s not about getting more hours out of the day, it’s about getting more day out of your hours. Sleeping less is a short-cut to health problems, de-motivation and stress. If anything you should be thinking about sleeping as much as you need to and working out how to cut the noise out of your waking day to make it more productive.

Working harder isn’t going to get you there either.

You’re already working harder.

So, how do you get more out of the day?

How do you sleep more, be less stressed and do more work that makes a difference?

Embracing Quitting

There’s a rather macho saying that goes, “winners never quit, quitters never win.”

Make sense in sport but sport isn’t business. In a game, you’re not likely to lose your life savings, your marriage or your health. But, that is what’s on the line if you stick out a business or a project that’s not working for you.

It’s time to take back ownership of that adage.

Winners quit, winners quit all the time. Losers, however, are afraid to quit.

The truth about success is you have to say “no” more than “yes” to achieve it. Saying “yes” to everything is easy, lazy even.

The science of quitting

I’m going to borrow Stephen Covey’s “Time Quadrant” from his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to explain this.

Now, take every task that you do during a given week and write it down on a piece of paper. Next to every task assign a value – “urgent” or “not urgent”. Now go back through that task list and write down next to each task “important” or “unimportant”.

Your tasks should now fall into one of 4 categories:
1) Urgent and Important
2) Not Urgent and Important
3) Urgent and Unimportant
4) Not Urgent and Unimportant

You can organize them in a Covey Quadrant like this:

covey quadrant important urget

What does this tell us about our time?

Well, most of us will spend most of our time in the “Urgent and Important” quadrant. This are the tasks that need to be done yesterday. These are what sucks up our day with firefighting, starting on the back foot, addressing other people’s agendas.

Covey says that we need to spend less time in the “Urgent and Important” quadrant and more in the “Not Urgent and Important” one. This is the quadrant of planning and creativity. 1 hour here is worth 10 in other quadrants. It’s in this quadrant we create the most value. The challenge is that these tasks are constantly at the mercy of the next incoming problem or crisis.

So, how do you spend more time on the important and non-urgent tasks?

Not by working harder or longer hours.

But, by designing a lifestyle that eliminates the other quadrants.

The power of elimination

In Tim Ferriss’ “The 4 Hour Workweek” Elimination is one of his crucial strategies for designing a business around your lifestyle (the 4 factors being D = define, E = eliminate, A = automation and L = liberate).

You can eliminate in a number of ways:
1) Do I need this task anyway? If not, delete it
2) Can I automate this task?
3) If I can’t automate or delete the task, outsource it. (I’m going to go into more depth about outsourcing soon).

Elimination is key to building a Lifestyle Business where lifestyle comes first.

And that starts with saying “no”.

Say “no” to grow

Tim Ferriss (author of the 4 Hour Work Week) suggests you should get up and leave the theater half-way through if it’s lousy. Who would have the guts to do that? Most would rationalize “well, I’m here now anyway…”

It’s the same with life. You’re here now anyway. You got your ticket, you might as well stick around. But, if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. And that means prioritizing your time as if your life depended on it.

If you want to grow, you have to make space. To make space, you need to say “no” to stuff. And when I mean stuff I mean meetings, projects, ideas, customers and people. Yes, people too.

That’s tough, saying “no” to people but I see that as the “test” that distinguishes between the successful and unsuccessful Lifestyle Entrepreneur. The unsuccessful one can’t say no. He’s committed. He’s stuck.

Learn to guard your time fiercely

Good looking girls receive a lot of attention. They soon hear every lousy chat-up line in the book. That’s why they tune out the noise. They don’t have to respond to every compliment, comment or approach. They become harder to impress. Not because they are somehow arrogant but they’ve seen so many time-wasters that they want to know for sure that you’re not going to be like “that guy”. That’s why their initial response is a smoke-screen to throw you off. Most guys beat a retreat, but it’s not they’re not interested, they want to know you’re not wasting their time.

When it comes to meetings, projects, ideas and “other people”, you too should guard your time in the same way.

Rather than becoming a “yes” man, learn to say “no” to requests, meetings and opportunities by default. Don’t commit to anything. It’s better to gain a reputation for being difficult than to be a flaker.

time management

Rather than check email and Facebook first thing in the morning, open a notebook and write down the 3 things you want to achieve today. Write out your schedule. Sure, you have it there on Google Calendar too, but the process of writing it down with pen and paper reconfirms it in your own mind.

Your default response to a meeting request should always be “no” even if it sounds interesting. You’re too busy, you’re working on a project, you’re out of town. Whatever it is, guard your time.


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  1. Pingback: In business, sport and life... I'd much rather be a player than a spectator - Graham D Brown

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