Success at all costs is a fool’s bargain.

Are you a clever fool?

Success, on its own, rarely delivers on its promise of happiness. A busy period of hard work may feel rewarding, and a constant grind actually produces a short term burst of dopamine and activity, that quickly becomes a diminishing return. You could waste years blinding working too much because you confuse the feeling of achievement and productivity for true happiness. When your ability to discern and make smart choices, and your level of joy goes down, then you have less ability to work efficiently, making the ‘busy hustle’ in the beginning counterproductive. The end results matter the most. Sometimes doing less equals doing more.

How do you know if you’re working hard or working too much? Check in with yourself and ask if with the workload you’re doing, that you’re able to make breakthrough contribution, feel a sense of happiness in the moment as well as have a sense of hope for the future. You have to balance your obligations to work and family and friends and loved ones.

If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will. Having heightened awareness of what priority is, and making sure that you aren’t just busy pursuing lots of things, but creating space to pause and discern, so that you can keep figuring out what is the most important contribution you can make. There is an inherent trade off; there is an advantage for a time perhaps. There’s always something you’re giving up. Suddenly, you’ll realise that you’ve lost your way, you don’t know what it is anymore that you’re chasing. This happens for decades for some people’s lives, you always have to connect with your reason for working so hard. Success is a poor teacher. Success makes you complacent and makes you fearful. Success make you think inside the box. Success shouldn’t dictate the next action you take, your actions should be guided your conscience and your true inner voice, to ensure that you are used for your best and highest use.

The best way to ensure you are prioritising is to say no. Say no often and say no to lots of projects. Only focus on the best and most effective ways to achieve your goals. Streamline your life to achieve them. So how do you say no to things? Saying yes is more comfortable, it’s easier to please other people if you say yes. How do we tactfully say no to people? First, you have to realise that saying no isn’t difficult, and in fact, you are already saying no all the time, just not verbally. Every choice you make, every action you take, has a consequence of you rejecting other options. You’re rejecting millions of actions everyday. As is everyone else. You are saying no in an unspoken way. Every time you watch tv you’re saying no to the people you could be meeting at a gym or cafe. Every time you skip a lecture you’re saying no to the friendships you can make in class and learning you could be doing.

But don’t you need hard work, especially when you start? Doesn’t life require sprints sometimes? Unexpected things will always come up. You think it will like X, but it will be like things you won’t come for. You shouldn’t take every project you think you can do. People cannot estimate time accurately. Because sometimes opportunities will arise that align with some of your values. It might be convenient. It might be lucrative. But that doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every project that seems right. Never say yes to too many things at once. Be sure that every project you take is truly aligned with your values and the timing is right, and that you’re not sacrificing another important aspect of your life in the process.

Nothing will ever go exactly to plan. An important person will cancel on you, then you’ll cancel on them, then an unavoidable catastrophe comes up. What you thought was X was XXX and will take up way more energy than you intended. Take every time and budget estimate and multiply by four. People are very poor judgements of ability and time — we’re naturally built optimists. It’s not to say don’t take on projects and don’t put extra and never push harder — it’s about making sure that you choose the most important priority and work hard for the most crucial of goals. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right to pull back but you need to in order to gain momentum and consistency.

Don’t have the projects in the first place be careful what you take on, make sure it’s the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Then there’s buffer and safety net built in so you can take the extra time you need to when you need to. In the same way that financial stability gives you peace of mind and allows you to enjoy yourself and removes stress, a security fund will save you from unnecessary anxiety and worry whenever you start a new venture.

Many people like to start with a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank. This allows you to pursue goals without stress or anxiety, in the same eway that money provides a sense of peace and security — the same principle applies to time. Do you have safety net and buffer for the unexpected happenings in your life if you take on this project? This is the question you should be asking before saying yes. Life happens. You might go slower but you won’t stop, if you have a buffer of money and time to cushion the blow. Consistency is key, consistent progress creates the most positive results.

Real patience is purposeful waiting, active waiting, when the intent and purpose is strong but you have a leash on your compulsive behaviour — it’s about pacing yourself for the long run. Lots of people start writing a journal but very few people keep it up. There’s two ways to approach it; I’m going to jump in and write everyday and jump in and write five pages that first day.

Then on the second day, they don’t have anything to write, and they don’t have any time built into their schedule, so they say they’ll do it tomorrow. We all know that tomorrow never comes, you have to do it today. Knowing what we know about unexpected things, we have to create a cushion for ourselves for when the inevitable happens. Pledge to contribute a tiny amount everyday. Create an upper and lower bound, and aim for consistency over a long period of time. The consideration of the long haul drives consistency once you have the right mindset.

More effort doesn’t always correlate to more results.

Be more intentional with how you spend your time. A writer who slaves away at a book and never contacts an agent is a lot worse off than a person who writes a page a day for a month then finds a good publisher. You will automatically, spontaneously, and naturally create space for what is essential once you develop this mindset of priority. If you believe that all actions are all of the same value, you’ll only get more work and the pile to do will just grow endlessly. It’s not about a lot of output, it’s about finding the right valuable output you desire and focus it.