Secret #2 Is It Even Worth Doing?
Have you heard of a ‘Not-to-Do’ List?
I’m always trying to prune unnecessary tasks from my life.
Subtraction is refreshing!
While listening to a podcast, I latched onto something the guest said in passing. He mentioned the Warren Buffet method of prioritizing. It involves writing down your top 25 goals in life. Step 2 is picking out the top 5 and dumping the rest.
I’ve heard this advice before, but for some reason, it stuck out that day.
It sweeps away clutter.
This exercise just clarifies what I think we already know. Most moms can name their top 5 priorities (life goals) without thinking too hard.
And on paper, it looks simple. Line em up and live a life of intense purpose and value.
No sweat, right?
Few people would admit, at least out loud, that watching TV or clean baseboards are more important than relationships.
But often actions speak otherwise.
Finance gurus say you can read a person’s value system by looking at where they spend their money. Similarly, our to-do lists are tattle-tales. The crossed off items clearly show what we’re putting out front.
At times that makes me cringe.
What is the ‘is it even worth doing?’ secret?
It’s a method of subtraction.
Something may have inherent value, but no value to you.
If we don’t watch out for FOMO (the fear of missing out) our lives get bloated with too much of everything.
The trap is operating on the “any benefit” mindset.
I picked up this idea in Cal Newport’s book Deep Work,
The trap is thinking that if we can find any benefit, in an activity, a thing, or a task we should partake.
As an extreme example, we have a family member that saved every piece of paper that ever entered her life. The paper filled a spare room, stacked around the walls – for decades. She would stand in the doorway and look at it saying, “There’s some good stuff in these papers.” Maybe, to somebody. The only “good” the piles did was collect dust.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
What AM I managing to get done each day?
Keep a list for a week – kind of like a time log, except instead of tracking life in 15-minute increments, record finished tasks.
Am I being controlled by an addiction to dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical our brain releases to cause us to act (simply explanation). You could call it the motivation chemical. Dopamine is the same chemical that can prod us to watch one more Netflix episode or crank through a bunch of minutia on our to-do list.
Kevin Lee wrote a great article called: The Science of Motivation: Your Brain on Dopamine – if you want to know more.
Crossing tasks off a list make us feel accomplished.
The problem is our brain doesn’t know if the job we finished was worthwhile or just sorting beans.
Is your completed list heavy on trivial tasks?
Am I losing time to distraction?
How many times in a day does a device play into your life?
Especially note when it wasn’t a planned part of the day.
Has the internet, smart phone, or tablet become a crutch? Or a knee jerk reaction?
After all this amateur psychoanalysis, what tasks on your list could be:
1. Eliminated completely
2. Spread out (done less frequently)
3. Downsized or simplified
4. Delegated to someone else
5 exciting reasons to ask, ‘Is it even worth doing?’
Subtraction frees energy
Defining what needs doing creates space to tackle the best stuff.
Doing the best stuff brings deep satisfaction, which in turns fuels motivation, to complete more of the best stuff.
Subtraction frees time
Cutting back on repetitive, routine and low-value tasks frees up time. These are the type of tasks that go largely unnoticed.
Doing something every ten days that you were doing every seven is probably sufficient and a good place to start looking.
Subtraction makes others stronger
Sharing the load with others, in my case, this usually means my children, reaps benefits.
Even if it takes longer.
As moms, it allows us to do more of what only we can do.
It builds skills and competence in our kids.
Most importantly, it molds a character of grit, self-worth, and gratitude.
Subtraction eliminates resentment and martyrdom
Getting worked up over things you have no control over is a major energy zapper.uming and fretting about other people’s choices and actions harm relationships.
Fuming and fretting about other people’s choices and actions harm relationships.
On the other hand, when we’ve filled our life with things that matter to us, for the right reasons, other people’s reactions don’t hold as much weight.
Subtraction keeps life exciting
Eliminating all the activities and options that aren’t adding value to our lives creates room for new, exciting things.
My mom always said, “Why watch a parade, when you can be in it?”
She usually meant this literally – as we marched, baton twirled, pom-poned and drill-teamed through life.
But it’s a great principle to live by. Filling life with spectating – watching others do things – on the field, on TV, in tabloids – adds zero value to our lives.
Put ‘Is it even worth doing?’ into practice
An obvious place to start. Talk about repetitive tasks that go largely unnoticed…
Consider jobs to eliminate, tasks to do less frequently, simplifying to save time and delegating.
Anything food related
Unless cooking is your hobby and joy, it’s the next area to put under a microscope.
I used to have delusions of grandeur when it came to cooking. But too many meals that took hours to create and 10-minutes to consume cured me.
My goal is food that’s tasty, healthy and straightforward.
The Nourishing Gourmet has a post on keeping meals simple.
Last week we ate a late lunch, so I made popcorn and smoothies for dinner. My son dubbed it, “the best dinner.” It’s now a Sunday night tradition in the summer.
Picking from the pile
I’m ridiculous about collecting things to do and try. I end up with a couple of dozen library books, enough quilt patterns to last a lifetime, and a calendar stuffed with “opportunities.”
Too much leaves me scattered and numb. When I’m scattered and numb, I start doing mindless and useless tasks.
A trick to combat this is the ‘gather it up and rate it’ method. Seeing all the choices in one place makes you realize there is not possible way to tackle them all. Pick the top 1-3.
Let the rest go.
If you have a hard time letting aspirational tasks go, just park them on a list, and tell yourself you’ll get to them “later”.
Special events and holidays
When my kids were involved in theater, the director always said, “Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick 2.”
Pinterest mania (remember, I LOVE Pinterest) has set unprecedented expectations. We think we can have it all – fast, cheap and good.
Elaborate events either take a ton of time to DIY and hunt for bargains, or they will cost a ton of money to source out.
Simple parties can be pulled together in a few hours – and be budget friendly. But they won’t make the front cover of a magazine.
This was a lesson that took me a long time to learn.
I love this Podcast episode (and the entire podcast) from The Mom Hour. Kelle Hampton has wisdom about making special events unique without going crazy or broke.
Waste of time.
Easy to say. I’m the chief of worriers. Especially when it comes to my kid’s safety.
So I don’t have a magic wand for you or a cure-all. I’m in process.
One thing I have found that helps is minimizing the amount of time I worry.
I try to do something about it.
Glympse (no affiliation) is a tool we use with our new teen drivers.
The kids send us a notification that they are leaving and we can see their progress. This is not spying, because A, they have the choice to notify us. We can’t “watch” them. And B, hello, I own the car and pay for the insurance. If I want to watch them drive around, that’s my right! You can leave a comment about what a helicopter mom I am in the comments!
With Glympse they don’t have to keep checking in; it is a safeguard for them since someone (their parents) is aware of their location, and we can relax knowing exactly when they should arrive home.
Friends told us about Glympse – they use it when traveling with groups. My husband and I now use it as an organizing tool. He lets me know when he’s leaving work – handy for dinner prep. We use it when caravaning on road trips – which eliminates any temptation to text our location back and forth for pit stops.
I realize that knowing where your child is on the earth doesn’t eliminate risk, but I spend that hour of waiting far more productively than I did when I paced the house.
Besides dealing with the obvious spiritual root, what methods do you use to keep worrying in check?
Have guidelines that make decisions easier.
When our kids were little, we had a guideline that if something didn’t include our children, it wasn’t for us.
We had limited money for entertainment and babysitting, and we reserved that fund as an investment in our marriage.
In other words, any time spent without our kids was devoted to time together.
We missed a few events here and there. I think. I don’t remember. You get my point.
I have a friend with eight kids. That’s a lot of kids. Her guideline is that they can pick one extra-curricular at a time. I don’t blame her. Fortunately, they have a built-in drama troupe, baseball team, debate club right at home – so I don’t think they miss out.
What pre-decision making can you do to eliminate the fatigue of having to weigh options over and over?
You plain hate doing it.
Unless you are a billionaire, there are going to be things in life you have to do, like it or not.
Those aren’t the things I’m talking about.
There are other tasks we let into our lives, with good intentions, and it turns out we despise them.
Maybe you hate your volunteer job. Not volunteering, just this particular responsibility. You can fix that.
Maybe you dread ironing. Don’t buy cotton.
Maybe you hate picking up rotten fruit off the ground. You thought having fruit trees would be like living in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. With the wasps and fruit slime, it doesn’t seem so glamorous in real life. The kids are moving out, and you don’t have a small army to help. And sugar is evil anyway, so you don’t make jam or eat pie…
Oh, that’s me.
I’m going out to cut down some fruit trees.
What do you dread? Can you manage it right out of your life?
Count the real cost
We let our son get involved in an extra-curricular activity that was 35 miles from our home, figuring it was ONLY one night a week.
The weekly meeting maybe.
But so were the laser tag days, volunteer activities, fundraisers, birthday parties, potlucks, on and on it went. It was a huge drain on our time and energy.
And then there are sports. Childrens’ sports are like a gas-guzzling machine.
Soccer isn’t just soccer. It’s gear and your turn to bring snacks and coach thank you gifts and photo day and pizza parties after big games. It’s assistant coaching and THAT DAD – the one who yells at everybody’s kid.
Yes, kids activities and being involved is an important part of growing up and can be a major joy of parenting if you don’t get in over your head. Add it all up.
The same goes for jobs, travel, home improvement, growing a garden, etc.
Does anyone even care if I do this?
Here’s where resentment and martyrdom can rear their ugly heads.
If no one notices – if they just don’t care – you better find an inner motivation – or stop doing it.
I love a clean house. My family likes a clean house. Their definition of clean is different from mine.
They do not care if the inside of the cupboard is crumb free.
My son does not care (actually he would rather I don’t) if I make homemade lavender sachets for the dryer.
My husband wants a tasty dinner sometime before bed – the folded, ironed cloth napkins are superfluous.
Nothing good comes of me expecting accolades for doing things only I care about.
It’s good for us to appreciate the things others do to make our lives pleasant. To be fair, I’m sure my husband does dozens of things I do not see that contribute to my well-being.
But, be clear who you’re doing something for. If it’s for you, your satisfaction, your (healthy) pride in a job well-done – then be satisfied and stop sighing loudly.
Maybe just not now…
Deciding that something is not worth the time and energy, at this time in your life, doesn’t mean it has to be eradicated from your life forever.
You may have a specific goal, a season of life, an important area of focus that necessitates giving something up. Or at least moving it to the back burner.
Maybe it’s TV, or dinners out, or expensive coffee, weekly girls-nights-out…whatever it is…you need to set it aside for a greater mission.
For many years I gave up fiction. I did read aloud to my family from wonderful novels. But I couldn’t curb the all-nighters to finish my own good book. Staying up all night reading and parenting does not mix. Now that my children are older there’s room in my life again for edge-of-my-seat fiction.
Time opens up as children grow-up.
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We are finite.
It’s so important to spend time on activities that will have an impact – in a lifetime, a year, a month, even in the next hour.
What have you decided is not worth spending your precious time and energy on? Leave a comment.
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