We would never say we love making excuses, would we? Nope. But we suuuuuuuuure do love to claim we “don’t have time” when it comes to doing something the excites us!
Oops. Yeah that’s an excuse.
If we truly want to protect our dreams, mindset, and goals, we have to learn how to guard our time. Ruthlessly.
What Does it Mean to Guard Your Time?
At first, it sounds a little counterintuitive. If we want to live full, satisfying lives, shouldn’t we want to be free with our time? Shouldn’t we take opportunities as they come, and say ‘yes’ as often as we can?
Let’s break it down:
Maybe you’re saying ‘yes’ to everything. Maybe nothing is off the table for you. Happy hour with friends? Sure. Party this weekend? Of course. 8am coffee meeting…on a Monday? I mean, I guess so.
At first, it’s exciting. It’s a full schedule, never a dull moment. But these things you’re saying ‘yes’ to… who are they for? Are they for you? Maybe you’re starting to feel a little antsy, like you never have time to get things done. Like you just don’t have the space in the day for your goals. Does another happy hour really get you closer to where you want to be in life?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hermit. A healthy social life is totally necessary and important, and I’m not recommending you isolate yourself indefinitely in order to be productive. But I know how it goes. At some point, the frustration starts to creep on. You find yourself searching for spare pockets of time. The things that matter to you fall to the wayside because it feels kind of gross saying ‘no’ to your friends. It feels neglectful to give your child some TV time because you need to work. It feels rude to push off date night with a significant other. I don’t want that life for you.
Remember this: saying ‘no’ to one thing means saying ‘yes’ to something else.
What (and who) Are You Saying Yes To?
When your friends start making plans for the local watering hole or your partner is ready to settle down with Netflix for the evening, take a minute to assess. Where are you with your goals, and what could you be doing to make progress? Could you take advantage of this opportunity to say “no” to an activity but “yes” to yourself?
It’s okay to tell people ‘maybe next time’. (Spoiler Alert: There’s totally going to be a next time.) This is what it means to truly guard and take control of your time. Weigh your options. Be intentional with the things you fill your day with. Don’t say ‘yes’ to things that you don’t truly want or need to say ‘yes’ to in the moment.
By the way, let that sink in. You rarely need to respond with a total confirmation when asked. There’s a very high likelihood that what is being asked of you is something you can take at least a few minutes to mull over.
Have a look at your calendar blocked life and see if what someone wants you to do fits in. No room? You have you’re true answer.
On this topic, I recently flew to Austin, Texas to sit down with best-selling author (and brilliant stoiciscm interpreter) Ryan Holiday (You can watch the whole thing here. Don’t worry. I only fangirled a little.)
We discussed what stoicism really entails, and how it pertains to guarding your time so that you can live a fulfilling life.
Ryan mentioned in our chat that he thinks of his age not by how many years he has lived, but how many he has been dying. It’s scary, I’ll admit. But it’s true. I’m 34. I’ve already been dying for 34 years of my life. How much of that time was spent doing things I was guilted into? What have I done for no better reason than FOMO? How much time was spent saying ‘yes’ to others and ‘no’ to myself?
It is not selfish to prioritize your goals, because no one else is going to do it for you.
Practice checking in with yourself before you make frivolous and random plans. It’s fun to be spontaneous, and sometimes it’s a great thing. But be mindful of your time. Guard it with everything you have, because it’s your most precious asset. You can reschedule that coffee date and catch your friends for dinner next week. But you can’t buy yourself more time. So use it wisely, and say ‘yes’ to chasing your own success.
Q: What have you become better at saying “no” to? Tell me in a comment!