It’s never been easier to start an endeavour in the world of business. Want to get a masters degree and improve your employability? You don’t have to commute to school on evenings anymore. Now you can do that online without ever leaving your home. Want to start a retail business? You don’t have to rent a storefront these days. Now, ten bucks gets you a URL and you’re off to the races. Need more help in your department at work? You don’t even need to hire an employee because hiring temporary work is just a click away.
But easy access doesn’t mean no strings attached. Sure, you can start that online masters degree fast and get started fast. But what if a degree isn’t the best move for you? What happens if you decide to quit after three months? Answer: not much besides the fact you’ll have wasted valuable time.
That retail business? A URL and a website gets you a store, but what if you’re selling something no one wants? Answer: your business will stop just as quickly as it started and that means time just went down the drain.
And temporary work? It may be easy to hire a freelancer, but if they work on a project that’s going nowhere, you’ve just wasted money.
There’s a great Steve Jobs quote I love, from back in 1997 before the big Apple turnaround.
“When you think about focusing… you think, well, focusing is about saying yes. No. Focusing is about saying no.”
This is true of a big company—any company, in fact. You can’t go in a million directions at once. If you do that, then you get nowhere and you waste time and resources. Being focused means picking and choosing your challenges.
This idea is also very true at the personal level. Maybe it’s even more true. Each and every person in the world gets 24 hours in a day in which to eat, sleep and work. We can’t hire more of ourselves or add more hours to the day. We have a fixed capacity to leverage and we have to make sure to maximize that capacity. And maximizing that capacity means choosing not to do some things so we can spend more time on others.
Here’s how to choose not to do things: think hard before you act. Ask yourself, if I do this, what’s the possible outcome? Am I comfortable risking my time in this endeavour (and yes, investing time in anything is about risking time)? How about another endeavour? If I look at both of these potential projects, which one has the rosier upside?
Think hard before you act. Focus. Say no. Time is money, but money can be lost and regained. Once you’ve wasted time, it’s gone forever.