Have you ever wondered how the most successful people achieve so much when they have the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us? To Warren Buffett, the 89-year-old chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the third richest person in the world, it's not a mystery at all.

In the words of the Oracle of Omaha, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."

Hang on, they say NO?

It feels counterintuitive, but give it some thought and Buffett's advice will ring true in virtually any context, whether it's investing, work, or your personal life.

So often we spread ourselves thin by saying "yes" constantly, and we end up taking on more commitments than we can handle. If you've been there, you know the outcome: increased stress and lower quality, whether it's of work, life, or just decisions in general.

Successful people say no to these 4 things 

The good news is that you can turn things around just by saying no. Does that mean it's easy? Of course not -- but it's worth the effort.

1. Exciting opportunities that aren't a good fit.

Always remember that devoting attention to something, whether it's an investment opportunity, a new project at work, or a new hobby, means taking time away from something else. This year forgo all those opportunities with potential in order to focus on the ones that are the most important.

2. 80-hour work weeks that cost you time with family.

Our culture has glorified the struggle of the entrepreneur and businessperson to the point where people feel like 60- or even 80-hour workweeks are something to brag about. Show me an 80-hour zealot and I'll show you a family or personal life that's been sorely neglected. Successful people choose balance over burnout.

3. Superficial networking events.

While some people slog through speed dating style networking events that go by in a blur of business cards, the smart ones spend their time nurturing a few truly valuable relationships. Successful people choose quality over quantity.

4. Going to incredible lengths to please people.

Spend too much time trying to please the people around you and you'll find you've neglected your own most basic needs. Successful people aren't self-absorbed, but they're also not going to cater to the people around them at the expense of their own lives and happiness.

Putting "no" into practice

As we start a new year (and a new decade!) it's the perfect time for you to step back and rethink your priorities. If you're still saying yes to the things above (and everything else that comes your way), you'll be amazed at what can happen when you finally start to say no. It won't be easy, and here's a quick exercise that proves it designed by Buffett himself.

Write down a list of your 25 most important goals. That may seem like a lot at first, but you'll hit that number quickly when you think about all the different directions you're trying to go in life. 

Next, circle the top five, and then (this is the painful but important part) cross out the rest.

No one -- not even the most productive person in the world -- has room for 25 goals. The really successful people are the ones who recognize that fact, accept their limited bandwidth, and choose to allocate their time to a few things that matter the most. Try emulating this practice and you'll be able to join their ranks.

Published on: Jan 10, 2020
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