The Biggest Unseen Danger for the Busy Real Estate Investor

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A few weeks ago, after sifting through dozens of emails in one morning, it suddenly dawned on me that there were a lot of people in my life who wanted something from me:

  • Some people wanted my professional opinion.
  • Other people wanted me to meet with them for breakfast.
  • Some people wanted to leverage my network.
  • Other people wanted me to get a something done.
  • Some people just wanted to hang out and have fun for an evening.
  • Other people wanted me to help them solve a problem they were dealing with.

The bottom line was that all of these people wanted to own a piece of my time.

It reminded me of a book I read a few years ago called Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. There were several things in this book that hit me like a ton of bricks — but probably the biggest lesson came from one simple concept:

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When you say “Yes” to one thing, you are simultaneously saying “No” to everything else.

Necessary-Endings

You are only one person. There is a limited number of commitments you can make in a day and it is literally impossible to say “Yes” to every person who wants something from you (this isn’t just my opinion, it’s a fact).

There is a finite number of hours in every day and a finite number of days you have to live your life. In a very real way, each moment of your life is like currency and once you spend it, it’s gone.

When I choose to spend an afternoon working on my business, I cannot spend this time with my wife and daughter. When I choose to spend an afternoon with my family, I cannot spend this time building my business. One way or another, I have to make a very real decision of saying “Yes” to one thing and “No” to another.

Obviously, there’s a time and a place for everything. It’s not my place to tell you what you ought to spend your time on, but I can tell you that this is a very simple concept that you need to keep in the forefront of your mind with every opportunity you say “Yes” to. In most cases, there is a long list of things that are taking the back seat with every one of your “Yes” decisions. Sometimes those things belong in the back seat, and sometimes they don’t.

Everyday you and I are confronted with decisions about what we’re going to commit our time to doing. It’s a choice we’re all going to make, whether we realize it or not (even if you choose to lay in bed all day, that’s still a “Yes” decision, and it requires you to say “No” to everything else).

Where “Burnout” Comes From

PalmerIn my life, people ask me to do things almost everyday that I desperately want to say yes to. I’d love to make everyone happy, but unfortunately, I don’t have the time and resources to meet all of these requests. It’s not an excuse; it’s just reality.

Parker Palmer said it best when he stated that burnout results from trying to give what we do not possess.

Have you ever thought about it this way? Some people may be asking you for things that you are literally incapable of delivering (because of time constraints, prior commitments — or even a lack of the required skill set). The only question is: are you going to be honest with yourself about what you’re capable of doing with the finite resources you have on hand? There’s really no point in denying it.

When we allow these kinds of conflicting situations into our lives (rather than just saying “No” from the outset), it leaves everyone worse off in the end. It’s not just a disservice to yourself — it’s a disservice to everyone involved.

For many of us, it’s an ongoing struggle, and it really doesn’t need to be. It all starts with YOU having the presence of mind to:

  • Know your limits.
  • Know where your time is best spent.
  • Be confident in your entitlement to own your own time.

I love how Ramit Sethi illustrates his example in the video below:

If you’re in a position where you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions every day – you don’t have to be a victim to this constant manipulation of your time. Just do yourself a favor and stop saying “Yes” to everything.

Sure – some people might not like it, but what’s worse? Over-committing to everyone and disappointing them in the end — or helping people to have proper expectations of you in the first place?

What’s your take? Do you say “Yes” too often, or do you understand your limitations?

Weigh in below and leave a comment!

About Author

Seth Williams

Seth Williams (@retipsterseth , G+) is an experienced land investor, commercial real estate banker and residential income property owner. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog providing real world guidance for part time real estate investors.

15 Comments

  1. James M. Schroeder on

    Thank you Seth I enjoyed your article! I appreciate your time and effort you put in to writing a solid article. So thank you

    I am a “Yes man” because I honestly love helping people; however, I have found that it has been a major source of frustration at times in my life. One thing about me is that I absolutely hate to fail (I am not a sore loser I just hate to fail) and when I over promise and under deliver, which usually stems from saying “yes” to so many things, I feel like I fail and to me this is unexceptionable. This paradigm between helping people and failing has cause me so many of hour (probably days now) of self reflection.

    I find that the older I get the more defined and refined my priorities in life get, which makes it easier for me to focus. I no longer feel like I have 10,000 “shiny objects” dangling in front of my face because I know what my priorities are. In turn, that makes it easier for me to say “no” without feeling bad about it. I will say that it is far easier for me to know and say than it is to practice.

    Thank you for the book recommendation too. I spend about 2 hours a day driving so I plow through audio books.

    • That’s great to hear James, this kind of laser focus can make all the difference when it comes to your personal effectiveness and overall progress in life. And I know what you mean, these kinds of disciplines usually are much easier said than done. Thanks for sharing!

  2. James M. Schroeder on

    Thank you Seth I enjoyed your article! I appreciate your time and effort you put in to writing a solid article. So thank you

    I am a “Yes man” because I honestly love helping people; however, I have found that it has been a major source of frustration at times in my life. One thing about me is that I absolutely hate to fail (I am not a sore loser I just hate to fail) and when I over promise and under deliver, which usually stems from saying “yes” to so many things, I feel like I fail and to me this is unexceptionable. This paradigm between helping people and failing has cause me so many of hour (probably days now) of self reflection.

    I find that the older I get the more defined and refined my priorities in life get, which makes it easier for me to focus. I no longer feel like I have 10,000 “shiny objects” dangling in front of my face because I know what my priorities are. In turn, that makes it easier for me to say “no” without feeling bad about it. I will say that it is far easier for me to know and say than it is to practice.

    Thank you for the book recommendation too. I spend about 2 hours a day driving so I plow through audio books.

  3. Seth your article is so true in this day of texts, emails, facebook and all the other social media one can lose a whole day trying to solve other peoples problems leaving you no time to complete yours. I like the idea about separating others from yourself and focus on the important things and scheduling the others around the open time.

    thanks again for the reminder.

  4. It is as if this was meant just for me. I am currently running a start-up business, my mother has cancer and needs assistance in every way under the sun, my family depends on me to be their problem solver, and my husband wants his devoted wife back. I have said yes 100 times too many to others and put myself in a situation where I am now ill myself. Even being as sick as I am they ALL still depend on me for everything? I’m struggling with this very situation within myself. How do I get them to take on their own problems? How do I care for my dying cancer filled mother, run a business and still take care of myself. I do know that if I don’t find an answer I will succumb to an inevitable end. Those who are so needing of my time will take my life. My resources are very limited and I don’t see an out to the demands placed upon me. Thank you for the sobering reality this message has brought me. Hopefully, an answer to my prayers for help in getting those who need me so much to hear me when I say NO! As of now my no’s fall on deaf ears. It is no longer asked of me, just expected that I do. I am looking for a way to get them to understand that I simply can’t be their answer without them turning it into the “I don’t care or love them” for saying no.

    • Thanks for sharing your situation Angel – I feel for you. While I don’t know the intimate details of your situation, my gut is telling me that this ultimately comes down to YOU and your ability to give people the proper set of expectations on what (if anything) you can do for them.

      I actually suffer from a similar problem, I hate saying “No” to people and I want everyone to be taken care of. Ultimately though – people need to be responsible for their own problems and not turn to you for every issue they need help from (think about it – are they serving you as well as you’re serving them?).

      Here’s another post you might find interesting: https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2014/01/31/how-to-say-no/

  5. Engelo Rumora

    Thanks Seth,

    Great blog.

    I am in a similar boat.

    Multiple requests for advice on a regular basis, and I still have my own Real Estate business to run, the team, other ventures, etc…

    As much as i would love to help everyone, its very difficult especially when being pressed for time.

    I have a 1 thing tho, I reply to every email, phone call or message.

    If I don’t, my “no reply’ will stalk me and I probably won’t be able to sleep lollol

    Thanks and have a great day.

    • Thanks for your feedback Engelo – glad to hear I’m not the only one in this predicament!

      Have you thought about taking Ramit Sethi’s approach (from the video above)? Seems like it works for him… I’m probably going to give the same thing a shot.

  6. Great Post Seth!

    I try to be honest with myself and others. I try not say yes to anything I am not fully committed to doing. Sometimes I say no, with an explanation as to why I would not be able to do it, and I have gotten compliments from many people for my honesty and self awareness.

    Like others I WANT to say yes to everything and make people happy and help everyone I can. But you just can’t do it. What my goal is to do everything I promise to do. I want people to know what I say I will do is the MINIMUM they can expect to get out of me.

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