If you want greater focus in life, stop saying “yes” to these 8 things

We all strive to have laser-like focus in life, but let’s be honest, it’s easier said than done.

The key is understanding that saying “yes” to everything isn’t just overwhelming, it’s counterproductive.

Every “yes” is a commitment, and too many commitments can scatter your attention and dilute your efforts.

In this article, I’ll shed light on 8 things you need to stop saying “yes” to for achieving greater focus in life. Because the truth is, sometimes saying “no” can open the door to your biggest “yes” yet.

1) Overcommitment

One of the biggest focus-drainers in life is overcommitment.

We often feel compelled to say “yes” to every opportunity, every request, every favor. But with each “yes”, we’re stretching ourselves thinner and thinner.

The problem with overcommitting is that we’re operating from the idea that our time, energy, and attention are limitless.

But the reality is, they’re not. These are finite resources. 

When you spread these resources too thin, your focus suffers. You’re not able to give your best to any one task because you’re juggling too many.

So, the first thing you need to stop saying “yes” to is overcommitment. It’s okay to decline some requests or opportunities if it allows you to maintain your focus and deliver your best where it matters most.

2) Perfectionism

Notice how I said “deliver your best”. Which definitely does not equate to “delivering perfection.”

See, perfectionism is a real focus killer. As someone who used to be a perfectionist, I’d always say “yes” to the idea of perfect results every time. I’d spend countless hours refining and tweaking, trying to make everything just right.

The thing is, chasing after perfection not only consumes an enormous amount of time and energy but also distracts you from other important tasks. It’s like being caught in a loop, never fully satisfied, never able to move on.

One day, I realized that my pursuit of perfection was actually holding me back. I was so focused on getting one thing perfect that I was neglecting other areas of my life and work.

So, I made a conscious decision to stop saying “yes” to perfectionism. Instead, I started focusing on progress over perfection.

And guess what? Not only did my overall productivity improve, but I also started feeling less stressed and more satisfied with my work.

So, let perfection go. Strive for excellence, not perfection. It’s a much healthier and more productive way to live and work.

3) Multitasking

When it comes to focus, one of the biggest misconceptions is that multitasking leads to greater productivity.

You might think juggling multiple tasks at once means you’re getting more done. But research shows that’s not the case. In fact, the human brain isn’t designed to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

When we think we’re multitasking, what we’re actually doing is rapidly switching between tasks. This constant switching not only impacts the quality of our work but also drains our mental energy much quicker.

Instead, embrace the power of single-tasking. Focus on one task at a time, give it your full attention, and watch your productivity soar.

4) Unnecessary meetings

manipulating your life decisions 1 If you want greater focus in life, stop saying “yes” to these 8 things

We’ve all been there, stuck in a meeting that drags on forever, discussing things that could have been summarized in a quick email.

Meetings can be beneficial when they’re focused and productive. But too often, they’re not. They can easily turn into time-wasting sessions that pull you away from your actual work.

I know this one can be tricky to stop saying “yes” to because we run the risk of looking like a non-team player. Or an uncooperative employee. 

Just the same, it’s wise to do a little scheduling clean-up. Before accepting a meeting invite, ask yourself if it’s truly necessary. Could the issue be resolved via email or a quick phone call? If not, is there an agenda to ensure the meeting stays on track?

By being more selective with your meeting attendance, you’ll free up time for focused, uninterrupted work.

5) Negative self-talk

Now let’s talk about one of the most damaging things you can say “yes” to — negative self-talk.

We all have that little voice in our heads that can be critical and discouraging. It’s the voice that says you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough.

But here’s the thing: that voice is lying to you.

Negative self-talk can severely impact your focus and productivity. When you’re constantly doubting yourself, it’s hard to concentrate on the tasks at hand.

As a writer, my internal critic can really get me in a funk. I’d stare at the page unable to decide on a direction or the right word to use. All because my inner critic has said, “That’s really dumb. Oh man, what kind of writer are you? A fake, that’s what!”

And even when I’ve finally gotten it over with and written a piece, it could stay in its folder forever because my inner critic has decided it’s not fit for publishing. 

It takes some real willpower to overcome that voice. But you can begin by saying “no” to it. And “yes” to more positive thoughts. Keep doing it until it becomes second nature.

Keep believing in your abilities and remind yourself of your past successes. A confident mind leads to focused and effective actions.

Which brings me to my next point…

6) Fear of failure

This actually goes hand in hand with negative self-talk.

As you can see from my story above, I’d let a story languish in its folder on my laptop because I’d believe it wasn’t good enough. At the bottom of this is a fear of failure. 

“What if it’s a terrible story? What if it doesn’t get accepted?”

You might have your own version of this in your job or even in your relationships, where you let the fear of failure control your decisions. Which would then lead you to say “yes” to playing it safe, always choosing the easiest path, avoiding any risk of failure.

As I would learn along the way, failure isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s a natural part of life, and the more you try to shield yourself from it, the more you’re limiting yourself.

Because the bottom line is, the benefit of allowing yourself to fail is growth. Learning. Resilience.

When you’re not paralyzed by fear, your focus will naturally improve, and you’ll be able to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

7) Distractions

The next thing you need to stop saying “yes” to is distractions. In today’s digital age, distractions are everywhere. From social media notifications to emails, it’s easy to lose focus on the task at hand.

If you’re constantly saying “yes” to these interruptions, your productivity and focus will suffer. It’s hard to concentrate when your attention is being pulled in multiple directions.

Establish boundaries for your attention. Turn off unnecessary notifications, allocate specific times for checking emails or social media, and create a work environment that encourages focus.

Remember, your attention is invaluable. Don’t let distractions steal it away.

8) Living someone else’s dream

life has no direction behaviors 1 If you want greater focus in life, stop saying “yes” to these 8 things

What about the big picture? Have you said “yes” to a larger design for your life that actually doesn’t resonate with you?

Many of us fall into the trap of living a life that’s not truly our own. We say “yes” to the dreams, expectations, and goals set by others—our parents, our partners, our peers.

But following someone else’s path can lead to a lack of focus and fulfillment. It’s difficult to concentrate on a goal that doesn’t resonate with your true self.

I remember a friend of mine whose family owned a huge chain of supermarkets. As the only child, he was expected to take over eventually, and that’s what he did. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t what he really wanted to do. He wanted to be a photojournalist, and managing the day-to-day operations of a supermarket just didn’t leave him room to do that. 

The result? He was living on autopilot. Going through the motions but not really focusing and actively engaged in what he was doing. 

That’s a real lesson that what you should be saying “yes” to are your own aspirations and passions. Your life is yours to live. When you’re pursuing something that truly matters to you, focus comes naturally.

Thankfully, my friend eventually wised up and followed his heart. And he has never been happier and more focused for it! There’s another lesson there — that it’s never too late to follow your own path and live a life that’s true to who you are.

Final thoughts

At the heart of achieving greater focus in life is the understanding that your time, energy, and attention are precious resources.

The way you choose to allocate these resources can significantly impact your productivity, satisfaction, and overall quality of life.

This is not just about learning to say “no” to the things that hinder your focus. It’s about saying “yes” to what truly matters – your dreams, your growth, your well-being.

See each “no” as a protective shield for your focus, a guardian of your time and energy. And see each thoughtful “yes” as a step towards a more focused, fulfilled, and vibrant life.

After all, the essence of focus is not just about doing more. It’s about being more – more present, more mindful, more intentional. And ultimately, it’s about living a life that truly resonates with who you are.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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