There’s no better way to get something done than to avoid doing it. “Remember that there is no code quicker than no code,” is an ancient computer programming adage.

In other spheres of life, too, the same principle holds true. As an example, no meeting is more efficient than a meeting that does not exist.

Even while this is not an excuse to avoid meetings, the truth is that we often agree to tasks and events that are not in our best interest. Many meetings are held that aren’t necessary. Many lines of code have been written that don’t need to be there.

How frequently do you say, “Sure thing,” when someone asks you to do something? Three days later, you’re still unable to keep up with all that needs to be done. Even if we were the ones who agreed to the duties in the first place, we find ourselves frustrated with them.

The question of whether or not something is necessary should always be asked. For many of them, a simple “no” is more productive than any amount of work even the most efficient worker could produce.

But if saying no has so many advantages, why do we say yes so frequently?

Why Do We Agree?
Because we don’t want to appear unpleasant, arrogant, or unhelpful, we often agree to things that we don’t really want to do. Whether it’s a coworker, a partner, a member of your family, or a friend, you’ll have to weigh the pros and drawbacks of saying no from time to time.

Because we care about and want to help these individuals, it might be very difficult to say no to them. (Also, we frequently require their assistance.) The importance of working with others cannot be overstated. Relationship strain outweighs the investment of time and attention we put into it.

As a result, responding politely can be beneficial. Do as many favours as you can, and don’t be afraid to tell people no when you have to.

In spite of these societal factors, many of us have a hard time negotiating the trade-off between yes and no. Many of us find ourselves over-committed to activities that don’t make a meaningful difference in the lives of others or ourselves.

The meaning of “yes” and “no” may be at the root of the problem.

When to Say “Yes” and “No”
No matter how often they are uttered, the words “yes” and “no” appear to have equal weight in speech. In actuality, they’re not only polar opposites in terms of meaning; their levels of devotion couldn’t be further apart.

One choice is all that is being ruled out when you reply “no.” You can’t have it both ways when you say yes.

Every time we say yes to a request, it’s like saying “no” to something else we could have done with our time, as economist Tim Harford put it. Committing to something means that you have already decided how that time will be spent in the future.

Saying no now will save you time in the long run. In the long run, saying yes will cost you more time in the present. The word “no” serves as a time credit. You’re still free to do whatever you choose with your time in the future. No is owed time. At some point, you’ll have to repay the debt you’ve taken on.

Yes or no is a choice. No is not an option.

The Importance of Not Doing Anything
Saying no is viewed as a privilege available only to those in positions of authority. And it’s true: when you have power, money, and authority to fall back on, it’s simpler to turn down opportunities. On the other hand, saying no is not just a luxury enjoyed by those who have achieved success in their careers. As a plan, it can help you achieve your goals, as well.

Developing the ability to say no at any point of your career is critical because it protects your most valuable asset: your time. People will take your time if you don’t keep a close eye on it, says investor Pedro Sorrentino.

Whatever isn’t helping you achieve your goals should be rejected. You have to say no to the temptations of the outside world. The only productivity secret, according to one of my readers, is to extend the definition of “no” in order to include saying no to everything.

“People assume focus implies saying yes to the thing you have to focus on,” stated Steve Jobs, who personified this idea well. However, such is not the case. It entails declining a slew of other excellent suggestions. You have to be quite selective.”

There’s a delicate balancing act to be done here. Saying no doesn’t imply you’ll never do something new, original, or impulsive again. When you say yes in a focused manner, it’s just saying “yes.” With distractions removed, it may make sense to take advantage of any opportunity that could potentially help your career progress. To learn what works and what you appreciate, you may have to give numerous things a shot. Exploration is critical at the start of any project or work, but it’s even more so in the early stages of a professional or academic career.

Increasing the Quality of Your No
Your plan must evolve over time as your abilities grow and your achievements increase.

As your career progresses, the value of your time decreases. To begin, simply remove the obvious sources of distraction and then proceed to investigate the remainder. As your abilities develop and you become more adept at figuring out what works and what doesn’t, you’ll need to raise your bar for saying yes even more.

There are many distractions, but you must also learn to turn down chances that were previously good uses of your time in order to free up more time for the things that are truly important in your life. Problems are fun to have, but mastering them can be a challenge.

To put it another way, your “no’s” have to get better with time.

The fact that you’ve upgraded your “no” doesn’t mean you’ll never say yes. Defaulting to saying no and only saying yes when it truly makes sense is all this means. “Saying no is so powerful because it preserves the possibility to say yes.”

According to what I’ve been reading, the overall trend is that people who learn to say no to bad distractions eventually have the right to say no to good possibilities as well.

The Art of Refusal
Most of us have a hard time saying no and are quick to say yes. It’s a good idea to reflect on where you are on the continuum.

The British economist Tim Harford, who I mentioned before, suggests the following method if you have difficulty saying no. This is a useful question to ask: “If I had to do this today, would I consent to it?” he suggests. A good rule of thumb is that no matter how far off in the future something is, it will ultimately become a pressing issue.

Is an opportunity worth dropping what you’re doing right now? Only if it excites you sufficiently. In the event that it isn’t, you may want to reconsider your decision.

This strategy is comparable to Derek Sivers’ “Hell Yeah or No” technique. As long as your first reaction is “Hell yeah!” when someone asks you to do something, you should go ahead and do it. Say no if it doesn’t get your blood pumping.

This is an exercise you should do on a regular basis even if you can’t remember to ask yourself these questions every time you confront a dilemma. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the alternative can be far worse. “It’s simpler to avoid obligations than to get out of them,” writes Mike Dariano. It’s easier to say no than it is to say yes.

When it comes to productivity, the old adage “prevention is better than cure” holds true.

The Influence of Not Saying Anything
More effort is wasted on non-essential tasks than on inefficient tasks. If that is the case, then eliminating problems is a better skill to have than optimising them.

A phrase by Peter Drucker that comes to mind: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”