Your time is valuable. One of the great things about being in your 30’s is that you learn to say no to things that might not suit you.
After having a baby, you learn to say no even more often, because your precious time to yourself shrinks even more. Babies/toddlers learn to say no or shake their head ‘no’ before saying yes, so maybe we could learn a thing or two from our children.
Just like money is a tool to demonstrate your values, the currency of spending your time is a tool to demonstrate your values. Prioritizing and minimizing your committments is one of the ways that you can add a little minimalism to your life.
The always wise Mr. Warren Buffett has famously been quoted to say:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Mr. Buffett recommends a simple two step formula, according to a great Medium article on the subject. One is to write down the top 25 of your career goals and then circle the 5 that are most important to you. Then the next step is to just cross off the other goals.
I guess it’s easier said than done but I did it. Recently, I had a chance to practice the ‘art of saying no’.
Saying No to Book Club
I have a bunch of girlfriends that I brunch with, travel with (well, key word is now ‘used’ to travel with post-baby), and used to go to book club with. I decided to stop the book club a few years ago. The main reason was that the books selected for the book club are fiction. I like fiction to an extent (depending on the genre) but there are so many non-fiction books that I want to read (many of which are personal finance books and investing books, which I prefer). I already have 5+ books that I set out to read in 2018 in my goals. I found that reading the books and preparing for the deadline stressed me out. I already do enough stressing myself out, including posting on this blog, lol.
There were some good points about book club, one of which is being able to go for brunch with my girlfriends to catch up. In addition, it was useful to practice my critical thinking skills (which have pretty much whittled to nothing, thanks to mom brain). However, after evaluating this decision heavily, I decided to become a book club drop out.
I also say no to things like musicals, concerts (to bands or artists that I haven’t heard of or am not a fan of), but I usually say yes to meeting for brunch or drinks. I value catching up with my friends, hearing about their relationships or next trips, rather than making small talk or talking about a book that I’m not very interested in.
I do feel guilty sometimes for saying no (I don’t want to hurt their feelings, because I am at the core, a people pleaser) so often… but the feeling eventually subsides and I know my friends won’t hold it against me.
Valuing Your Priorities
In my opinion, your time is even more precious than money. In fact, many of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) folks are out there investing their butts off in order to get more time in the future. When you have too many committments, you lose track of your priorities. It’s like, I hate to say it, the latte factor. When you fill up the roughly 16 hours of awake time that we have with things that don’t add much value to your life, then you end up feeling flustered and overwhelmed with your life. Of course, if you really value a daily latte ($5 a day x 365), and you would rather spend $1800 a year on a daily latte than a trip to Mexico, then that’s no problem. If you really value spending 20 minutes on Twitter a day (a bad habit I confess to having where I meaninglessly scroll) and don’t mind spending 121 hours a year on Twitter, then that’s no problem.
However if you would rather be more productive and efficient with the 121 hours you have in one year, then perhaps saying no to 20 minutes on Twitter will be something that could be worked on (I am in the process of trying to work on this myself!). I deleted Instagram off my phone and it has helped cut down the 30 minutes of scrolling on Twitter and Instagram to I think 20 minutes of scrolling a day!
It All Boils Down to Mindfulness (with your Time)
It all boils down to being mindful with your money and being mindful with your time. Meditation and investing are very similar and mindfulness and being able to say no and not wasting your time are also similar. In my ideal life I would have every minute (or maybe 5 minutes?) allocated to something that is aligned with my goals for the day. When I think about how I spend 121 minutes on Twitter in one year I’ll definitely be more cognizant of limiting that.
Working full time, having a toddler at home, and making sure I prep cook, clean, manage the household finances, and keep up with this blog means I have to cut out a lot of things in my life, such as a fiction-based book club. Like a lot of women out there, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Somedays, I feel like I am barely treading water and it’s hard to keep things balanced, but knowing that ‘this too shall pass’ is helpful and one day I will have more time for myself (hopefully before I become sandwiched and have to take care of my aging parents) when I FIRE.
In the meantime, saying ‘no’ to book club is a way for me to remind myself that my time is valuable and saying that ‘no’ sometimes means saying ‘yes’ to time for myself.
Readers, what have you said ‘no’ to recently?
GYM is a 40 something millennial writing about personal finance since 2009 and interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for a free dividend yield spreadsheet and the free Young Money Bootcamp PDF.