Let’s get real here. There will NEVER be enough hours in the day to get everything done. No matter what system you put in place. No matter how disciplined you are with your time. There will always be more to do. Period.
We simply can’t do it all. And we will never get ‘there’. To a place where we feel ‘on top of things’.
So let’s stop deluding ourselves and putting ourselves under pressure chasing an impossible goal.
Let’s stop over-working, over-performing or feeling guilty or stressed chasing what is an illusion. A completely unattainable goal or standard.
Let. It. Go.
All of it.
The pressure (internal and external). The guilt. The finding it hard to switch off. The constant feeling of there being more you should do. Both in work and outside work.
And this will mean making some difficult choices. You will disappoint people. You will not be able to live up to your idealised image of how you are meant to be or how things are meant to be.
But once we accept reality – truly accept it and internalise it – we can free ourselves to make choices that reflect who and what is actually most important to us, rather than being driven by a never-ending list of ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’ (that are typically not our main priorities in life).
The joy of not doing
Every month I receive a journal from a professional membership organisation I belong to. They used to pile up, unread, on my desk and I’d feel bad whenever I saw them. I eventually tried moving them to the bathroom in the hope that I might browse through them there occasionally. I never did.
Then one day I had a moment of clarity. If I want to know something, I can (and do) look it up.
So, I picked up the entire pile and threw them in the bin! And every month since, when it comes through the post, I don’t even open it – it goes straight in the bin.
And I’m going to let you into a secret – IT FEELS AMAZING!
The relief of removing that nagging pressure is wonderful. Liberating. And frees up energy for more important things.
The headspace of not doing
It was the same when I changed my business a number of years ago to focus on the type of coaching I do now. The person who took over my leadership development business kept checking if I wanted to hold onto a few programmes or clients. At the time I said no because I wanted to be all in. 100% committed to the type of work I wanted to do, without keeping one foot in the old camp as a safety net.
But I’ve since discovered the joy of saying “My colleague now does that work”. Absolute clarity. No head space being taken up wondering if I should do it this one time or for this particular client or organisation. No second guessing or overthinking. Bliss.
The impact of not doing
Deciding what to not do can range from quite subtle to pretty radical.
One client found being the CEO of the company he had founded many years ago involved a lot of people management and figurehead type of activities – neither of which he really enjoyed. So he finally decided to give up his role as CEO and instead keep a more specialised role that he found stimulating and where he could add far more value.
The business continued to thrive. The new CEO thrived. And he was able to focus more of his time, energy and talent on some ambitions he had outside the business which had been a lifelong calling for him, but he’d never had the time to focus properly on.
A lawyer in his mid 50s realised he’d gradually drifted further and further away from the type of work he enjoyed most and was best at. He’d become less happy in his work over time and this was affecting his mood, as well as impacting other parts of his life.
He finally came to the realisation that life is too short to be unhappy in work, and so put a case to his firm about focusing on the work where he could add the most value (and so benefit the firm), and what made sense for him not to do anymore (and mentor someone else to do it instead).
The shift in his mood, his stress levels, how much he enjoyed his work and the impact on the rest of his life after this was truly transformative. All from getting clear on what not to do. And acting on it.
Your ‘Not Do’ list
In order to start doing less of the things that take you way from how you actually want to spend your time, I’d suggest writing a list of things in work (and outside work) that you hate doing or that drain your energy.
Once you have the list, it’s time to get really creative about any possible ways to stop doing (or at least reduce time on) any items on the list.
Some people like to start with the thing that bothers them the most, or anything that’s easy to eliminate.
Some of these questions may help:
- Can you make a decision to simply stop doing it (like I did with reading the journals)? Do you REALLY have to do it or it just you feel you “should”? How bad would it actually be if you stopped doing it?
- Can you delegate it, ask someone else to do it, give it to someone better suited to this type of work or mentor someone to take it over? There may even be people who could surprise you by doing it better than you, or who would benefit from taking on other tasks or responsibilities.
- Are there certain meetings you no longer need to attend? Be tough. I’m of the firm view that your meetings need a regular spring clean. Some will have developed into habits even though you don’t really need to attend any more. Some are no longer that relevant. For others there may be other people who could attend instead of you or who might be developed by the experience or exposure.
- Can you outsource it? This applies to both work and outside work. Can you pay your neighbour’s teenager to mow your grass if it’s a task you really hate doing? Can you use a dry cleaning or ironing service that collects and delivers? Can you get someone to do your cleaning? I’m always amazed at the amount of people who earn an enviable amount of money but still spend several hours a week doing basic household chores like ironing or cleaning.
Fiverr.com, for example, is a fantastic freelancer website where you can hire people (virtually) to do almost anything. This covers all business and financial related tasks like PA work, book keeping, doing your tax return to market research. And it also has a section called ‘Lifestyle’ which includes things like travel itinerary planning, research on almost anything or even creating customised recipes based on your preferences.
- Can the task be automated?
- At home, can you decide on certain chores other people will do (and others that you will be responsible for) so you no longer have to even think about certain tasks anymore?
- Or at the more radical end, can you change your role or your life so you no longer have to do certain things that bother you (like the CEO and lawyer I mentioned earlier)?
All these now become the things you don’t do anymore. Your delicious, time giving, headspace bringing, joy giving, relief inducing ‘Not Do List’.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t like writing things down or feels like it’s another task on your to-do list! – then you can do all this in your head or just start small. Pick one thing you are no longer going to do. EVER. Decision made.
And start experiencing the beauty of JOMO – the joy of missing out!