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Why you need a “Stop Doing” List and what to put on it this year.
The Case for a “Stop Doing” List
The new year often comes with a whole list of new aspirations. A new diet to try, new activities to add to your schedule, new goals to take on. In the excitement of newness, we rarely take time to consider all of the old activities in our lives that are no longer serving us. So this year, I challenge you to clear space in your calendar and life before you start adding anything new by making a “Stop Doing” list. This list will be unique for everyone, but here are five key things that almost anyone can benefit from:
1 – Overthinking
Our brains are extremely creative and powerful and can often be the source of our obstacles. Overthinking can stop us in two key ways:
- First, by overthinking a task or goal, we can make it seem more complicated than it really is and stop action before we even try. For example, have you ever dreaded doing an activity and put it off over and over, only to find that once you actually got around to doing it, the activity itself was simple and painless? Motivation often comes from taking action, and the more we get stuck in our thoughts and delay action, the more likely we are to lack motivation.
- The second way overthinking can present an obstacle is when we fixate on the worst possible outcome without logically checking our extreme conclusions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapists call this “Distorted Thinking” and it happens when we imagine an extreme and negative version of reality in our heads. This CBT Primer explains how a simple recognition of these extreme thoughts can help us to realize that they are exaggerated and not useful.
2 – Mindless Social Media
If you’re looking for more time in your life to add new activities, this is one of the first places that I recommend really investigating. Many of us spend more time on social media than we realize or care to admit. The fact is, social media sites are designed to be addicting. Unless you set strict guidelines for yourself, you’ll likely fall into the trap of the mindless scroll. Some tips to avoid this trap include:
- Set a timer when you get on social media. This will help you to make a conscious decision to continue engaging with it or to move on to another activity.
- Hide your phone from sight. The mere presence of your phone can distract you from meaningful connection and encourage you to engage with mindless social media. I hide my phone in my desk drawer at the office and put it in a charging station when I’m at home.
- Set guidelines for yourself. For example, you could decide that you only want to look at social media after dinner. Or you only want to look at social media on your lunch hour. Setting some kind of intentional restriction brings awareness to your usage and helps you to stay vigilant.
3 – Saying yes, when you really want to say no
If you want to add new things into your life, you have to clear room for them. One way to start doing this is to pause before saying yes to any new commitments. This can be really hard. Sometimes we face external pressure, where we don’t want to let others down. But other times, the pressure is really coming from ourselves. We like to be part of projects where we can add value or to help other people out. But your time and energy are limited, so stopping to really ask yourself why you are saying yes before you commit yourself to a new project is a good discipline to start practicing. When saying no, you can be polite but firm. It can feel a little awkward, but people are generally understanding and will respect your answer.
4 – Accepting the status quo
Human beings by default tend to avoid change and lean towards keeping the status quo. If something in your life isn’t great, but also isn’t terrible, it can be very hard to find and sustain the momentum and energy to make a change. But the more you accept the status quo, the more you limit your potential and your overall variety of experiences in life.
This is a great one to start practicing in small ways. For example, last year, I didn’t have any organization system to how I put away my pots and pans in my kitchen. They all fit for the most part, so this wasn’t a huge problem, but I realized I was wasting a ton of time looking for a specific pot or lid when I was cooking. I very easily could have survived with the system as it was, but I realized that it was not serving me and I took the time to actually set up an organized system. As small as this might seem, feeling the results of this change and the immediate positive impact gave me more confidence to consider other changes in my life.
5 – Chasing shiny objects
Shiny objects are that new job, or tech equipment, or program that captures your attention and imagination. This tends to happen when you’re already committed to a different path of action. You were excited when you started on your path, but now another alternative has caught your eye and seems more appealing. You wonder if you should change paths entirely and jump on board the new shiny object. This happens to many of us every day in big ways and smalls. And most of the time, it’s the novelty of the new object that is appealing to us, and as soon as that wears off, we look for something else. Looking for new opportunities is fine in theory, but chasing shiny objects slows down your progress on your goals. It makes you distracted and spreads out your energy, ultimately making you less effective.
When you stop doing each of these five things, you’ll find more time and energy in your life to focus on your new goals and dreams. By starting with a “stop-doing list” you can clear space in your life before you take on more. This will set you up to be successful and give you momentum to start the new year with a bang.
What’s on your “Stop Doing” List?
Let me know in the comments below!