31 Important Things You Should Say ‘No’ to for a Happier Life

And how to do it

Danny Forest
Published in
17 min readFeb 19, 2020


An illustration of a man taking notes, with a flow chart of “Things to Say ‘No’ to” superimposed on top of the man.
Illustrations: Danny Forest. Click for interactive version.

AAntoine de Saint-Exupéry, the aviator and author of The Little Prince, said: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I’d say the same is true of happiness. I’m a happy man not only for the things I do, but also for the things I don’t do. In 2019, I set out to say “no” more frequently so I could focus my time on the things that mattered to me and the people I care for. It was the happiest year of my life so far.

I’ve created a list of what you can say “no” to, and how to do it. This guide is comprehensive, and not everything will apply to you. Because of that, I’m including a table of contents so you can jump to the things that may be relevant to your life. Read them, and start taking your life back into your hands.

*See Appendix A at the bottom for visual representations.

Table of Contents

*Feel free to highlight those you agree with or those you want to work on.

1. Procrastination
2. Negative self-talk
3. Perfection
4. Excuses
5. Comparing to others
6. The snooze button
7. Partying every night
8. Stimulants before bed
9. Food with no quality nutrients
10. Reading things you don’t enjoy
11. Completing useless things
12. Tap-on-the-shoulder interruptions
13. Responding to messages ad-hoc
14. Doing things you can delegate
15. Overly long meetings
16. Takers
17. Social media
18. Listening to complaints about others
19. Naysayers
Work-life balance
20. Bad routines
21. Bad clients
22. Spending your work hours doing personal stuff
23. Doing work stuff at home
24. A bad business partner
25. Clutter
26. Toxic people
27. Spending most of your time with the wrong people
28. Poor sleeping conditions
29. Waiting needlessly
30. Comparing apples to oranges
31. Your phone
Appendix A. Visual Representations




Danny Forest
Writer for

Polymath. Life Optimizer. Learner. Entrepreneur. Engineer. Writer.