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July 17, 2019

Essentialism: The Art of Saying ‘No’

All of us at Ninja Number recently read the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book, in a nutshell, teaches you how to be selective about the essential things in your life and then cutting everything else out.
Ninja Number is a small company. We wear lots of hats, and sometimes it’s hard to say no. We’re all willing to help out where we can, and the teamwork is amazing. However, at times, we are so eager to say yes that our plate gets too full, we stretch ourselves too thin, and our work can suffer.
McKeown says that to be productive, you need to focus on just a few things. Instead of doing a little work on a lot of things, you can get a lot of work done on those few things that are a top priority.
As an entrepreneur, you may feel that you don’t have the option of saying “no” to things. After all, if you don’t do it, who will? But if you examine your tasks in relation to your business’s goals and vision, you may find that not everything carries the same weight. The nonessentialist, according to McKeown, says, “I have to.” The essentialist says, “I choose to.” When we no longer have the ability to choose, we are helpless. By making choices, you have the power to determine what gets done.
Look at your list. Some things are obviously more important than others. If you feel lukewarm toward something or aren’t 100% sure that it needs to be done, drop it or table it. As productivity guru Derek Sivers says, “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.” Another way to put it: If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.
A lot of times, examining our goals and tasks uncovers a bigger problem: your company is trying to do too much. It’s spread itself too thin, focusing on too many goals. The key question you should ask yourself is, “If I can be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?” This is a concept found in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, in which he says that if there’s one thing you’re passionate about, you should do just that one thing.
The word priority was originally just a singular word that meant the very first thing. Only in the 1900s did we change the y to i and add –es. McKeown says by changing the meaning of the word, we’re bending reality! Focus on one thing – one priority – and do it well.
Our biggest fear is, “What will people think when I say no to them?” McKeown says they will actually appreciate you more for being clear on where your boundaries are than they would if you took on the task or project and failed to deliver. Saying no may not be popular, but it earns respect.
This takes a total change in mindset because you have to look at it at the micro and macro level. Figure out what your priority (not priorities) is. Then all objectives, projects and tasks will revolve around that. Then examine your existing tasks. Do they fall in line with your priority, your goal? If not, then cut it.
Remember: you have the ability to choose what your priority is. Make that choice; all other things are nonessential.

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