Two years ago, my wife and I were raising our two-year-old son, going through the process of building our first home, and building my company Porch.com out of the basement of our rental home.

The word "busy" doesn't even begin to describe what life was like (and still is!).

To be successful as a husband, father, and entrepreneur, I had to get great at saying one word: no.

When time is thin and the stakes are high, one of the most important skills to have as an entrepreneur is the ability to say no to things that don't align with your true priorities.

If you say yes to everything, you're living by the agenda of others and not your own.

Below are a few of the major areas in my life I've learned to say no to in order to be productive in both life and business.

--

1) Say no to distractions

We live in a world where thousands of little things constantly compete for our attention. To be productive you have to get good at eliminating as many of these distractions as possible. This includes social channels, news, or anything else that encourages procrastination. For me, I rarely open my inbox until late in the evening and instead of reactively responding to email, commit blocks of each day to different parts of the business.

2) Say no to negative people

Startups thrive on enthusiasm and optimism. As a leader, you need people around you that bring these qualities to life every day. The wrong people can spread their negativity like a disease, affecting everyone in proximity. Be quick to eliminate these people from your team as soon as possible and don't look back.

3) Say no to starting new projects

Steve Jobs once stated that, "Focusing isn't about saying yes, focusing is about saying no." It means that great accomplishments can often be measured by the large list of things you didn't do instead of the ones you did. Take a clear look at your startup and be laser focused on your top priorities, then say no to the rest.

4) Say no to the hype

Press is great for your startup, but being too focused on what others are saying about you or your business is unnecessary. Avoid the distractions of giving too much weight to the opinions of others and stay focused on what you can control. If it doesn't add value to the mission of your business, say no to indulging in the noise.

5) Say no to spontaneity

This can be a tough one. When you have big goals and a clear path to achieve them, you need the discipline to get things done. Unfortunately, this means saying no to the many other enjoyable external events that pop up in daily life. Unless it's an emergency or once in a lifetime opportunity, stick to your schedule and designate times for work and play.

6) Say no to arbitrary decisions

There is a reason behind why Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears the same shirt every day. It's an effort to make fewer small decisions so he can stay focused on the big ones. It may seem trivial, but giving yourself less choices on little things like what to wear or what to eat for breakfast can free up the mental capacity to make big decisions throughout the day. Look at your daily schedule and find the little decisions you can automate.

7) Say no to unnecessary meetings

At a startup, time is not a luxury or resource you have in abundance. You have to be able to make decisions quickly and act. Unless you are collaborating or making decisions that impact the direction of the business, keep official meetings to a minimum. Internal meetings should be crisp and to the point--the team at Porch knows that I like nothing less than elaborate internal PowerPoint presentations. Rather than wasting time reporting up, we want our teams moving forward with our customers and product as quickly as possible.

Published on: Dec 3, 2014