I am a list-driven person. I keep a running to-do list for work. My personal to-do list is usually just to the right of it. If I do something that's not on the list, I add it to the list and then immediately cross it out. Sad, but true.
Then last week I heard management author and researcher Jim Collins speak at a conference. He asked us what was on our 'stop-doing' lists. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it sure sounded appealing. And it is: For every thing on your to-do list, Collins says you should have something on your 'stop-doing' list.
Funny how having a bigwig speaker tell me I was trying to do too much, just by virtue of sitting in a particular Atlanta hotel ballroom, seemed way more authoritative than my inner voice, which has been telling me I've been doing too much for, oh, my whole adult life.
I've already stopped doing some things, but I look at this as prime opportunity to be an overachiever: Surely, I can stop doing a whole lot more. So we at One Thing New reached out to the smart busy women we know and asked: What's on your 'stop-doing' list? Quitters, start your engines. It's time to stop:
- Watching television. As a mother of two small children, I found that having something else talking at me at the end of the day was not relaxing. Quitting TV has given me time to read books or daydream with a glass of wine.
- Making breakfasts on school mornings. I buy high-quality, low-sugar bars (or make them ahead of time) and my five year-old son helps himself.
- Booking every day with meetings and appointments. I freelance and work from home, and somehow think I can get my job done and have meetings for the volunteer organization I serve on the board of, go to the dentist, work for an hour a week in my kid's classroom, let the furnace guy in, etc.
- Making decisions my employees should make for themselves.
- Wasting time and energy doing what I'm not good at. Now I have my handyman, my accountant, and my mother's helper on speed dial.
- Waiting for that 'break' in my day. Now I just take it. Sanity equals walking outside or away from the house or office for at least 15 minutes — even if it's midnight or five in the morning.
- Overscheduling myself and the children. That gives us the freedom to enjoy whatever unfolds during the day.
- Looking at the computer after 7:00 p.m. Or at least I'm trying.
- Ironing. I stick the clothes back in the dryer, hang them in the shower with me, or figure that if it's humid outside, the wrinkles will sort themselves out as I'm wearing them.
- Taking on money-losing clients in hopes of building a profitable relationship with them later.
- Connecting with time-suckers. Life is too short for people who suck up your time with no positive outcome.
- Hitting the 'Like' button on Facebook. If I have something to say, I take the time to say it. Otherwise, I move on. Clicking on the 'like' button turns us into mindless robot chickens, just pecking away at buttons on a screen in a misguided attempt to convince ourselves that we are taking an active part in life.
- Saying "yes" to endless birthday invitations for my son. I work Sundays, so Saturday is my only day with the whole family together. If my son doesn't even recognize the name of the child who invited him, I believe it's okay to opt out as gracefully as I can.
- All heavy housecleaning on busy work weeks. I have hired a cleaning service. Even though it's pricey, it's cheaper than counseling and divorce lawyers.
- Taking work home. The more I did from home, the more my employer expected from me.
- Answering every email. It's okay to delete or ignore some.
- Spending time trying to be considerate of people who are unkind, rude or dishonest. I have stopped trying to figure out why they don't like me or why they can't play fair. I try to use that energy to think good inspiring things, such as, "When will I walk the Camino?" — KW
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Image courtesy of flickr user Ben Werdmuller