a yes is a no

Many of us have trouble not offering help to a friend apparently in need. Or trouble not participating in some mundane event. We become yes-men by default, and let others choose our activities for us. We develop a fear of missing out. But saying yes to one thing is a no to something else.

Too many projects. Too many hobbies. A todo-list for miles. Too much shit to do and too many fucks to give. Agreeing to everything suggests that prioritisation is broken. The available effort allocated with existing ventures diminishes with each new adventure.

 on prioritisation

Saying a tentative yes often can be useful. The idea is to try things out and find the most useful or fun stuff, and then continue with those. We should never lock down on things for the rest of our lives, as that leads to sunken costs. Abandon the ventures that proved less exciting you expected. But by all means, do seek improvement and try stuff out. Don’t lay the eggs in one basket.

Say yes to new things rather than those you already know are not for you. Broaden your set of knowns. Even a little experience generates understanding and allows you to make connections between unexpected elements.

So there is a dichotomy. Both look for new and different stuff, while still refuse to be overburdened by them.

Eventually saying no to most will allow for more time to perfect the few. A specialist in any field is often an interesting character. Less stuff in working memory allows for an easier realisation of focus and flow. When the activities get too plentiful, we must prioritise and execute. Find the most important thing and do it. Then the next.

Whether balancing between many activities, or sub-activities of one skill, one should always look for the one most important thing to do. One thing for each day, and perhaps one aggregate for a week or month. This should get things moving, then get the most important things done, and produce a sense of accomplishment.

Also, a yes to something new can be no to procrastination, to bad tv, to overuse of X, to any bad habit. In fact, getting rid of a bad, deeply ingrained habit, almost always requires something to replace it with. Replace tv+couch with jogging or stretching, sitting with standing, a doughnut with an apple, complaining about solution-seeking. Unfortunately, this works both ways.

Whatever it is, remember to treat time as the most important commodity you have, as it is limited. You can try to “sleep faster”, and even though that’s kind of a joke, I believe it is possible to sleep better, as in getting more out of a fixed amount of slept hours.


I see wasting time worse than wasting money. Earning money for money’s sake or overworking rarely leads to anything positive, but instead, often to an existence filled with disdain, regret and contempt. Working hard and a lot can be a source of celebration if done for the right reasons, though working a lot does not equal working hard. Working smart within sensible time constraints is what i tend to strive for.

Lastly, time is also connected to physical, and more specifically mental well-being. Some “down-time”, a reasonable amount of slack to ponder and think things through is beneficial, to me at least. Taking care of one’s health should be the last thing to give up. In this context, it’s an automatic, default, instinctive yes.

The Power of Habit - more on habits and their formation
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck - more on prioritisation and giving fewer fucks


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