There’s one small thing we each have that if used properly can provide huge productivity gains.

It’s small.

If you have kids you probably use it regularly already.

Can you guess what it is?


I’ve used it already above.


Yup that’s right my secret productivity tool is a word. And it’s the word NO! No is so important because we’re defined by what we don’t do as much as what we do do.

At night I say no to my phone by putting it out of reach. Night is time to play with my family. I say no during family time by letting my phone ring to voicemail. Sure I’ll check it in the next hour but night is for family.

I say no during the day by making sure my phone doesn’t beep/buzz/ding. There are no badges on email. There is no work email on my phone actually.

I say no on my computers by not installing Twitter. It’s way to easy for me to distract myself and think I’m being productive because -> networking.

I say no during bike rides by giving my wife’s phone number a special ring. I only stop if she calls me. All other calls go to voicemail.

I say no during the crucial work times by turning off my phone totally. Any real life emergency is happening downstairs and my wife can come get me if I need to help out.

I say no to meetings during the week by only taking 3 calls for new clients. All on Tuesday morning from 8 – 10am PDT. I’ll allow one of those calls in a week to be for an interview or to talk with a new freelancer about their business at no charge.

If I have a 4th new client that wants to talk they have to wait till next week.

I say no to interruptions in the day by only booking my check-in calls with current projects at 9am or 1pm and putting a 45 minute hard stop on them. That leaves me a few hours in the morning or afternoon to really dig in to productive work without a meeting hanging over me.

I say no to meetings by only attending ones with clear agendas.

Most of what I do is out in the public on Twitter or Github or right here on my blog. That means that you can decide for yourself.

Am I defined by what I do or what I don’t do more?

I couldn’t do all that I do, if I didn’t say no as much as I do.

photo credit: Robiwan_Kenobi via photopin cc