I’m a list-maker from way back. I have multiple list-making apps on my phone, and I’m never more than five feet from a notepad and pen. Basically, my lists have lists.
I like it that way, though. I like having a plan; I like knowing what to expect as I move throughout my day. The world is chaotic enough on its own; there’s no need for me to go traipsing around without a plan.
Raise your hand if you’re with me. I see you, list-maker.
Lists can serve us well, right? Organization is not a dirty word. I rarely lose things. I almost never forget appointments or plans. (Fail to show up because of social anxiety? Yes. But forget? No.)
So when I first read about the Stop Doing List, my type A self was like, “That’s a no from me.”
Stop doing? How could I possibly stop doing? We’re supposed to be doing things all the time, right? We have to be overbusy and overcommitted and overstressed. We have to do ALL OF THE THINGS, or we’re not doing life right. Isn’t that what we’re made to believe?
Looking at my piles of lists, my unending carousel of tasks, I couldn’t imagine what a stop doing list would even look like.
Didn’t I have to be doing it all?
Stop doing it all. Seriously.
The hard truth is that we’re all doing too much. As I mention in this post, we think that if we aren’t absolutely crushing it in every area of our lives, we’re failing.
Ruth Soukup puts it like this: “We tell ourselves all we need to be happy is a clean house free of clutter; an awesome and fulfilling career in a job we love; a balanced budget and plenty of money in the bank; kids who are happy, healthy, clean, smart, talented and smiling all the time; a loving & passionate relationship with a spouse that makes our heart skip a beat every day; an active social life with friends, family and loved ones who bring constant joy, and a deep spiritual connection that keeps us on the mountaintop all the time. Oh, and we also need to look fabulous in a swimsuit!”
Talk about a list! I don’t know about you, but I’m lucky if I tick one or two of those boxes most days.
Because the truth is that if we want to excel at something, we have to slack off in other areas. If we want to accomplish big things, then we have to let the small things go. At least for a while.
You have to stop doing the things that don’t bring you the results you need.
How to make a stop doing list
What is your to-do list's ROI?
If you are already a list-maker like me, take some time to look over your typical to do list. When you invest time into accomplishing those tasks, are you getting a satisfactory Return on Investment (ROI)? Is the benefit you’re getting from each task equivalent to the amount of time you’re putting in?
If not, start looking for ways to maximize that return. Are there items on your list you can eliminate, delegate, or batch?
Eliminate tasks that bring you no or limited return. If you spend time making your bed every morning because that’s what your mother always told you to do, but it brings you no joy or fulfillment? Stop doing it. Yes, I said it!
You’d be surprised how many things you do out of habit or without thinking about it. Take time to consider why you do each task and what it really brings to you.
Can a coworker take over an office task for you? Can your spouse or partner start doing a household chore? Do you have it in the budget to hire out things like house cleaning, lawn care, or meal planning?
Even if it’s only one or two tasks a week, delegating can result in a powerful shift in your energy and productivity.
Are you tidying up the house all day long? Or constantly checking your e-mail at work? Tasks you return to again and again each day can likely be batched.
Pick one time each day to batch those tasks, then forget about them. I promise you, the world won’t end if the dish doesn’t get washed or the message doesn’t get replied to for a few extra hours.
What behaviors can you let go of?
Are there any behaviors you engage in that make life harder for you, yet you feel you have to keep them up? Often, as women, we’re made to feel like we should behave a certain way, but those types of behaviors frequently hold us back.
Examples of the behaviors I’m talking about can include:
- Always being nice
- Always offering to help
- Avoiding engaging in something that could be seen as selfish
- Putting lots of effort and resources into your appearance
- Devoting your energy to domestic work – i.e. cooking, cleaning, childcare, and caring for your spouse
Most of these behaviors aren’t bad in and of themselves, of course! Being kind and selfless are fantastic qualities.
But when we become trapped in these behaviors, it’s time to add them to the stop doing list.
So, if you do your hair and put on a full face of makeup every morning because you genuinely enjoy it, definitely keep doing it! If you blow off girls’ night to stay home and cook dinner for your family because you just don’t feel like going out, that’s 100% understandable!
But if you’re jumping through hoops because you feel like that’s what a woman is “supposed” to do, I encourage you to start letting some of those things go.
You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.
Watch out for energy vampires
When I say “energy vampire,” you already know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? There are some people and activities in our lives that are just draining. They might’ve brought you joy at one time, but now they only bring you down. Maybe you feel obligated to spend your time on them. Maybe you are obligated to spend your time on them, but you can still take steps to protect your energy.
If your energy vampires take the form of people you have to interact with, like family members or coworkers, let them know that you won’t be available to speak to them all the time.
Say you have a relative who calls you every day on your drive home. Tell them you’ve started listening to audio books in the car, and you’ll call them one day a week to catch up. If you’ve got a coworker who sends you multiple e-mails a day, tell them you’re only going to be checking e-mails once a day.
Make sure you stick to those boundaries! If your relative keeps calling or your coworker keeps e-mailing, don’t let yourself get sucked in!
Spend time with people & activities that give you energy
Not all energy vampires can be avoided, but this is a surefire way to combat the energy drain. Pay attention to which people and activities make you feel more energized, and be intentional about spending time on them.
Maybe you feel energized after a church service, a workout, or a coffee date with a friend. Schedule time for those activities regularly, and keep to those appointments like they’re set in stone.
Spending even a few minutes a day with positive energy sources can make a marked improvement in your own energy.
Stop comparing yourself
In this post, I talk about how comparing ourselves to others can make us feel less than in our own lives. The truth is, you are going to prioritize different things than your neighbor, which is why your life will not look like their life.
Constantly running on the hamster-wheel of comparison and “never enough” can drain your energy fast than anything. If the carefully-crafted “perfection” of social media has you feeling down on yourself more often than not, maybe it’s time to put Facebook and Instagram on your stop doing list.
‘Busy' does not mean ‘important'
Did you know that being busy isn’t actually a sign of importance?
These days the message seems to be that to be successful, or even to fit in, we must always be busy. We have to work all the time and strive, constantly, for more.
Did you know that, really, the idea of constant busyness was promoted by people looking to sell you something? Think about it: if you’re in a constant state of insecurity, then you will always be looking for “things” to fill the gap. And “things” cost money. Our entire society has bought into this mindset, which Brene Brown calls the culture of scarcity.
What if, instead of busyness, we look for ways to incorporate more rest into our lives?
What if, instead of rushing home after work to cook and clean, we threw some PB&Js into a bag and took the kids to the park?
What if, instead of checking our e-mail first thing in the morning, we did 5 minutes of stretching or sipped our coffee on the patio?
Thinking of busyness as a sign of productivity, and therefore rest as a sign of laziness, should definitely go on your stop doing list.
What are you going to stop doing today? Tell me in the comments!
Struggling with overwhelm? Sign up for Letting Yourself Off the Hook, my FREE 5-day mini e-course designed to help you let go of “busy” and embrace joy.