FOCUS is About Saying NO

Kim Peterson

“FOCUS is about saying no.” – Steve Jobs

Saying no is an art. It can be much more powerful than saying yes.  

2018 was a year of great productivity and intentionally doing MORE things that made me happy. I was full of life and creativity and was the first to raise my hand and say YES to everything. I was working more than full-time and volunteering weekly at my son’s school. We traveled more than ever before – including a trip to the UK and Paris. I published more than ever before – including some articles in high impact medical journal. We entertained more than ever before – hosting and entertaining multiple families at a time for weekend getaways at our log house on the river all summer long. I was more creative than ever before – doing all sorts of DIY projects. And I started this business – She Bloomz – to help other women follow their dreams to do the same.

When we reached the end of the year and I was vision boarding with my boys and thinking about setting a word of the year, SPARKLE came to mind. I wanted more of what I had in 2018. I’d never picked a word of the year before. I had never even heard of it. The idea is to pick a word that you want to act as your guiding principle, your mantra throughout the year. The word should reflect a concept that you want to embrace more of in the coming year and that is linked to your “why” and your goals for the year. (See my blog post about it at SPARKLE appealed to me because it means to be full of life and creativity.

But then I ended up sick, almost bed-ridden, and depressed for the first 3 weeks of January 2019. It gave me a lot of time to think. I am a pretty naturally healthy person and only get really sick about every decade. But, when I do, I do it up good! The last time was in 2008 when I ended up with an all-expense paid trip to the ICU for pneumonia and sepsis! I started to see some similarities between 2008 and 2018. 2008 was another very productive year and I had been working hard both personally and professionally. We were simultaneously remodeling two investment properties and I was traveling internationally a lot for invited speaking engagements. In both years, instead of resting when I started to feel run-down, I just kept pushing on.

Just like in 2008, in 2018 I had been FOCUSING ON THE END PRODUCT INSTEAD OF THE PROCESS and not realizing that I was pushing myself too hard. I started to think back to 2018 and how even though I was so PRODUCTIVE the processes themselves were very stressful and often did not bring me joy. Yes, we traveled a lot to many new and exciting places, but I had to bring my laptop along and take conference calls along the way to meet often unrealistic deadlines. I was impatient, not showing up for my family the way I wanted and could never completely unplug. And in many cases, the END PRODUCTS, while great accomplishments in general, were not necessarily tied to any particular goals or guiding principles. For example, while my journal publications brought personal satisfaction, they were not going to lead to more money or promotion.

I finally realized that starting to be more SELECTIVE and STRATEGIC about my yeses and in the words of great Steve Jobs, “FOCUS is about saying no.” And I have officially changed my word of the year to FOCUS. But, how does one ACTUALLY do this? A two-pronged approach that has worked for me is to first pick a few areas of FOCUS for the year and second, to make a list of my top 3 to 5 priorities and then turn them into criteria for deciding if/when to say YES. Everyone’s priorities are different, so everyone’s criteria are going to be different. For me, my priority for 2019 is to make sure that when I say YES to others, I make sure that I’m not saying NO to myself and my family. In terms of picking my areas of FOCUS, among ALL the things I love to do – photography, writing, creating and selling inspirational products with impact, DIY projects, etc. – for 2019 I’ve decided to FOCUS on writing my book and starting a podcast. Then, my short list of questions that are linked to my general 2019 priorities are:

  • Will this opportunity NOT negatively impact my quality time with my family?
  • Will the process bring me joy?
  • Is this opportunity in my area of focus?
  • Will it make me money?

In order for me to take on something new, I need to answer yes to at least 3 of those 4 questions. I’m happy to report that I successfully said NO to my first amazing entrepreneurial opportunity this year! I was offered an amazing opportunity for my first paid travel photography gig! It would have definitely brought me joy, good money, and an adventure! But, because it was going to be over Memorial Day weekend when I spend quality time with my family and friends and photography is not one of my areas of long-term focus for 2019, its really just more of a hobby, I could easily see that I should say no. Although I was somewhat disappointed and nervous about the process of letting someone down, after it was all said and done – I feel such great relief! Cheers to protecting your yeses and practicing the art of saying no in 2019!

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