Many successful people believe that you must do more, not less, to achieve results. This logic makes sense, but is it wise? It may mean working insane hours and saying many more yeses to everything that comes your way when you should be saying no.
As it turns out, the word “no” may be your ticket to success. In other words, saying more noes to things and people that don’t serve us may make you happier and more productive without the burnout symptoms of hustle culture. It means saying yes to the things and people that truly matter to advance your careers and businesses.
Learning to say no could save you
According to research by Morten Hansen, a professor at UC Berkeley and the author of Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, learning to say no to more work allows us to minimize our obligations and attain greater focus. Additionally, those with difficulty saying no are more likely to experience stress, burnout, and depression.
The late Steve Jobs was a big proponent of this strategy. At the 1997 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Jobs dropped this timeless piece of wisdom about what true focus entails:
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.
Most of us think that taking on more projects or working more hours will lead to more productivity.
According to Hansen, “As you approach the 50 to 65-hour mark, the benefits of those additional hours start to drop, and once you’re logging in 65 hours or more, your overall performance declines.”
Hansen says that if you’re juggling too many tasks and using the multitasking method, it will put your performance and, ultimately, your job at risk. “Excellent work requires focus, and focus requires few,” says Hansen.
Saying no to hustle culture
So what exactly should we be saying no to these days? While this is a subjective question left for you to answer, I propose saying no hustle culture.
In a time when being busy is seen as productive and entrepreneurs everywhere model their work habits after the Silicon Valley elite, it can be difficult to pull away and take a break. Now more than ever, people are experiencing real burnout due to overwork and hustle culture.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is famous for sleeping on the factory floor during “production hell” and considers working 80 to 90-hour weeks a badge of honor. This is far from normal. What’s normal is having a well-balanced and holistic lifestyle by limiting the number of hours you work so you can be productive in all facets of your life, including work.
Productive working professionals set clear boundaries on work priorities and what to focus on during a reasonable eight to ten-hour workday. Then, they work smart and efficiently to make sure it happens.
What does working smart look like in practice? It means saying no to too many meetings. Indeed, as published in Harvard Business Review, two-thirds of business managers surveyed said “meetings keep them from completing their own work,” and 71 percent said that “meetings are unproductive and inefficient.” Furthermore, the survey found 64 percent of managers shared that “meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.”
Say yes to this instead
You should be saying no to numerous other things as a leader and busy professional–too many to list here. But there’s one thing you should absolutely be saying yes to:
Being mindful of your health and well-being is crucial to counter hustle culture and minimize burnout. Your health comes first. Take short breaks throughout the day, exercise, eat well, have more walking meetings outdoors, take a day off to recharge, and definitely, without question, sleep more hours.