In Tom vs. Time, the new docu-series on Facetime Watch, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gives us a glimpse into his rarified world.

In the first episode, Brady laments, “Every time you say yes, you’re saying no to something else. We only have so much time.”

In his case, this means that when he says yes to football he is saying no to his family.

The net effect of these choices is that he is arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time (recent Super Bowl loss not withstanding). But he also makes clear that his family misses him and he is missing too much of their lives.

What is most revealing about this episode is how conscious he is about the constant tradeoff. He is acutely aware that he is sacrificing time with his family and that they are sacrificing for him.

We know that life is a series of choices. We know that our time is finite. Yet do we always know what no our yes brings?

  • Yes to staying up late is saying no to a good night’s sleep.
  • Yes to working late is no to dinner with the family.
  • Yes to Facebook is no to reading a book.
  • Yes to playing golf is no to playing with your children.
  • Yes to working on a new project is no to going out with an old friend.

In each of the above scenarios, neither choice is inherently bad and that’s not the point. The point is to be aware and intentional about what our yes means no to – because they add up.

Brady does this and seems at peace with it. Are you?

Research shows that making choices is a practiced skill. Being forced to make too many choices depletes us. One way around this is to create rules. Brady’s general rule is that football comes first. Everyone in his life knows this and it actually takes the choice out of his hands.

Other people have rules, such as:

  • I’m always home for dinner.
  • I read every night before I go to bed.
  • I make all my kids events.
  • I work late on Tuesdays.
  • I play basketball every Sunday.

Whether by rule or more conscious decision making, we need to realize that it is neither healthy nor sustainable to say yes without being aware of the no. Ultimately the no’s catch up to us – whether we like it or not.