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Making better decisions

Jay Clouse
Jay Clouse
3 min read

Our little family grew last month when we brought home our puppy, Teddy.

If having a 10-week-old puppy has reminded me of one thing, it's that I don't have nearly enough open space built into my life.

And the puppy demands open space. He's needy, he's unpredictable...and we want to be good, attentive parents. We need to have some open space!

Luckily, we timed bringing Teddy home with the holidays and me leaving my role with SPI to be a full-time, independent creator again.

When I look at my calendar, I see more open space than I have in nearly two years. It's super exciting – open space is opportunity! Open space can be maker space!

Just as long as open space isn't puppy space (which it often becomes).

For the last several years, I've had a nasty little habit of filling any and all open space in my calendar. Open space represented time that could be weaponized for generating an income to support me and my family.

I was definitely working harder...but was I working smarter?

Two weeks of having the puppy has me asking different questions – namely, "How can I create more open space?"

Because life isn't about should add to your life.

Life is about the puppies.

So I'm being much more thoughtful about the commitments I take on and the commitments that I perpetuate – how can I improve my work and increase revenue while creating more open space?

The easiest answer is by saying NO.

NO to starting new things.

NO to continuing things that aren't working.

YES to focusing on the most impactful and effective uses of my time.

But what if I have a really good-sounding idea? Something so tantalizing that I really want to jump in with both feet?

Well, I run it through two questions:

  1. Is this something I can do sustainably (for years)?
  2. Would my future self be glad that THIS is what I said yes to?

If the answer isn't YES, then it's NO. If it's not an outright NO, it's at least a prompt to do more scoping and investigation before making the commitment.

Is this sustainable?

Projects and side projects sound fun and easy, but I've learned they all come with a much bigger cost than you initially think.

The biggest driver of those time costs come from maintenance and "shower time" that you could be putting towards your other projects.

Anything you're still committed lives in your mind, eating your mental resources. You can't stop it.

That mental tax is much much higher than you may think. Because not only are you spending time on the thing when you're thinking about the're spending time on the thing when you're wondering if you SHOULD be thinking about the thing.

So now I assume that anything I commit to I'm committed to for a minimum of two years. Especially if it's a membership program that I'm asking CUSTOMERS to commit to for a period of time.

If the answer isn't an obvious "YES!" then the answer should be no. If I have an inkling that this isn't something I'll be interested in doing for 2+ years...then it's not something I can commit to.

What would old Jay think?

Things seem like bright, shiny, fun, amazing, smart ideas in the moment...but what if you detach yourself from the moment?

By stepping out of your own head and putting yourself into the mind of the 70-year-old version of yourself, you can trick yourself into being more objective.

Is this commitment something I'll be glad I made at the end of my life?

If the answer isn't an obvious "YES!" – or if it's not symbiotic with another commitment I've already made – then it's not something I can commit to.

Now that I feel more confident that I can create new open space and maintain existing open know what I've remembered?

You generate many, many more ideas in open space.

I've never felt more creative and clear-minded than when I'm playing an endless game of fetch with a creature that just never seems to get tired.

And with more ideas...the cost of saying "no" to any one idea feels much lower. I'm actually starting to relish saying no, because that's holding space for the next great idea.

While I'm not committing to new ideas, I'm also doubling down on my existing projects – namely, this newsletter and Creative Elements.

What if Creative Elements was the biggest driver of revenue in my business?

What would it take for that to be true?

Those are questions that are more worth time exploring than starting the next thing that ultimately detracts from the existing things.

What can you say NO to today?


Jay Clouse Twitter

Writer, podcaster, and community-builder helping people become professional creators. I write this blog and host Creative Elements, a narrative-interview podcast talking with today's top creators.

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