Short on time? For the key points on how to decide between yes and no, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.
A coin toss, an online spinning wheel or pulling the petals of a flower? Which is your favourite method to decide between yes and no? I hope your answer is none of the above because saying no at the right time is important. If it is though, please consider slightly more rational ways to make up your mind.
Before we dive in, let’s have a quick look at an observation made in the Navalmanack: ‘We’re not meant to check our phone every five minutes. The constant mood swings of getting a “like” then an angry comment makes us into anxious creatures. We evolved for scarcity but live in abundance. There’s a constant struggle to say no when your genes always want to say yes. Yes to sugar. Yes to staying in this relationship. Yes to alcohol. Yes to drugs. Yes, yes, yes. Our bodies don’t know how to say no.’
And that is why you should take some time to decide between yes and no.
Three tips to decide between yes and no:
Tip 1: Hell yes or no
‘When in doubt, there is no doubt’ & ‘If you can’t decide, the answer is no.’ — Naval.
‘When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then say “no.”’ — Derek Sivers.
Mind that it doesn’t work always and for everyone. When you’re just starting out, it may be better to say yes to all opportunities. Derek Sivers’ first success was a direct result of playing acoustic guitar on a pig show in Vermont. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s like a dog show but for pigs. This opportunity, which had been rejected by a friend, earned him close to nothing in dollar terms but it was the start of a successful career as a musician.
Mark Manson applies the rule to dating and relationships:
‘The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” states that when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, they must inspire you to say “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them.’
It’s simple. You’re either fully convinced of a yes or you’re not doing it. Period.
Most normal productivity and self-help websites would stop here. ‘You’ve got the advice, figure it out for yourself now.’ We know it’s not always that easy. How do you know if it’s a “Hell yes”? And what if you’re about 99% sure? That’s not a “full 100% hell yeah, no doubt about it, pal”, but at the same time, it’s very far from a “no, can’t be asked, mate”. We hope the next rule might provide some help in those cases.
The first rule to solve most doubts is this one: if you’re not convinced and are doubting between yes and no, choose no.
Tip 2: The 10-10-10 rule
I first heard about the 10-10-10 rule when Amanda Goetz discussed it in Dan Shipper’s Superorganizers newsletter. I expected it to be something small but apparently, it’s been around since the publication of Suzy Welch’s book on the topic in 2009, at least.
So how does this rule work and how can it help you decide between yes and no?
When you need to make a decision and you’re very close to a fuck yeah but deep inside you know you shouldn’t, use the 10-10-10 rule. It’s best explained with some examples.
- How will it make me feel in 10 minutes?
- How will this affect me in 10 days?
- What will the benefits of this be in 10 weeks?
Of course, the question and time frame depend on the matter at hand. I think you deserve some credit. You can probably figure this one out for yourself.
But just in case, here’s a good example: if you want to drink less and someone invites you for another one, ask yourself this question: ‘How will I feel about this 10 days from now?’ If you think it’ll be a memorable moment, like a cold beer on the last day of Summer or over a deep conversation while watching the sunset, GO FOR IT. However, if it’s just another after-work drink in a lousy pub, no is the better answer.
Now, when you’re trying to decide whether to accept a new job, how will I feel about this in 10 minutes probably isn’t the best question to ask yourself. You’ll need a longer time horizon.
When trying to make your decision, remember that many important decisions about our health, wellbeing, finances and careers are affected by hyperbolic discounting. This means that we, humans, mostly prefer smaller, immediate rewards rather than bigger, long-term rewards. You’re probably not different unless you stop and take some time to apply this rule.
Use the 10-10-10 rule to make better long-term decisions. Think about how your decisions affect “future you”. If you’re still convinced about your yes after considering the future implications, then yes is still the way to go.
Tip 3: Think Ahead
Thinking ahead is obviously closely related to the previous rule. However, we’re going to look at this one from a panoramic perspective. This time it’s not as much about how you’ll feel or benefit from a decision, but about opportunity cost and how not saying no can affect your calendar or mental health in the long run.
Remember that when you’re given a new project or opportunity, it often stands in the way of future plans and staying 100% committed to your current ones. So before you say yes or no to a new opportunity, make sure you won’t regret it later. Working just one extra hour per day can stand in the way of catching up with friends or doing exercise. The impact might seem small but this tiny change can easily be the start of depression or burnout.
Laura Vanderkam puts it like this: ‘The question isn’t would I rather do this thing or nothing, it’s would I rather do this thing or everything else in my already packed life that I’m currently living.’
Remember that every time commitment may have an impact on your future. Reflect on how something you accept now comes with a certain opportunity cost. Say no if you feel it will stand in the way of your current commitments and mental health.
How to decide between yes and no, summed up:
You have the right to say no whenever you wish or like. If it’s not a “ Hell yes, let’s do this,” say no or move on to the next rules. Think ahead about future implications and apply the 10-10-10 rule. If you’re still thinking about whether you should do it or not after applying these rules, you’re back at rule one: “when in doubt, there is no doubt“. Case closed.
Start taking those extra seconds or minutes to make the correct decision. In the end, you’ll end up saving many hours that you can then spend on friends, family and your favourite passions. Click here to learn how to say no respectfully.
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Sources and further reading about how to decide between yes and no:
- Jim Schlekser. Inc. — https://www.inc.com/jim-schleckser/highly-successful-people-dont-decide-between-yes-a.html
- Erin Zammett Ruddy. Forge Medium — https://forge.medium.com/a-5-step-road-map-for-saying-no-d4bbe7a2515c
- Mark Manson — https://markmanson.net/fuck-yes
- Derek Sivers — https://sive.rs/hellyeah
- Dan Shipper. Superorganizers — https://superorganizers.substack.com/p/amanda-goetz-doesnt-believe-in-balance)