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If you’re like me and old enough to remember the TV series, Grange Hill, you may recall a particularly ground-breaking storyline which involved one of the characters, Zammo (played by Lee MacDonald), descending into a drug addiction. For tea time television, it was a hard-hitting event for the characters in this school focused drama but off the back of this storyline there was a campaign aimed at children to stop them getting involved in drugs. The strapline of this campaign which included a very catchy song was ‘Just say no’.
It turns out that this is the advice that Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has lived by and is considered by him as one of the major contributing factors in his success. Now in his case, of course, his advice is nothing to do with using illegal drugs but rather how to conduct yourself in life and in business and remain focused on the actions that would benefit you and your close friends and family.
In this excellent article from Marcel Schwantes, he details how Buffett remains focused on the important things in his life that truly matters to him and jettisons the unimportant or less important things to protect his greatest commodity, which is his time.
Later on, in the article, Marcel also details how Steve Jobs used this approach to propel Apple into being the business behemoth that it is today. When Jobs came back to Apple, his approach was to simplify the business focus which had a significant impact on the objectives of the business and was felt throughout the business as this approach manifested itself into the designs of its’ products. Jobs felt that this approach was not just about yes to the tasks or ideas that you are focused on, but rather saying no to the other things that could take up our time and focus.
This advice is echoed by Jim Collins, the author of ‘Good to Great’ who according to the article advocates ‘stop-doing’ lists rather than ‘to-do’ lists.
So how easy is this approach to adopt in an every day setting? Certainly, we wouldn’t advocate simply saying ‘no’ to your line manager or boss when they ask to complete a task that you feel distracts you from the tasks that you think that really matter to the business, so this advice in that sense probably isn’t always appropriate unless you run your own business. However, adopting this methodology would certainly be effective in determining the priority order of your tasks rather than just dealing with them in a chronological order.
However, if you’re not running your own business then the advice can help with how you conduct your wider life and help you to focus on the things that matter to you. Did you set yourself a New Year’s Resolution? Have you achieved it? I suspect like many (and like me) you haven’t achieved what you have set out to and it is unlikely that there has been any life changing event which has meant that you have been prevented from accomplishing your resolution.
Of course, this is all easier said than done but then if you’re faced with a choice of Netflix and chilling rather than working toward your goal, then maybe you should do what the kids from Grange Hill said way back in the 80s and ‘Just Say No’.