Cross It Off The List

Consider the art of Selective Neglect.

We know we’re not going to get everything done today that we would like to get done.

We know that we’re probably not going to get it done tomorrow, either.

So rather than walking around feeling bad about all the stuff we know we’re not going to get to, let’s do some strategic thinking about “the list” itself.

We’ve discussed before the the idea of moving your highest-income producing activities to the top of the list ( and I still find that to be a useful tactic.

But what about eliminating some of the non-income producing activities entirely? (I know – there goes your chances for being crowned Queen Perfectly Doing Everything…)

Seriously – what could just go? And I don’t just mean delegate, I mean eliminate.

For example:

– Alison has an online grocery delivery service do the bulk of her weekly food shopping. Yes, this deprives her of the opportunity to squeeze her own melons, so to speak, but it saves this working mother at least 2 hours a week of parking, shopping and schlepping.

– Nancy quit Facebook. Cold turkey. Probably gained her an extra 6-9 hours per week.

– Jessica quit her church choir. “I loved the singing,” she said, “But I was not loving the 2-hour rehearsal each Thursday night. Being home with my family instead means we’ve started a weekly game night – Bananagrams! – and now in church on Sundays I get to just relax and enjoy church.” So she gained two hours plus not having to be there early on Sunday – probably three hours a week.

– I put my husband in charge of all national and international events. I do skim the front section of the newspaper each day with one eye half-closed, just to stay abreast of the general news trends. But I realized that don’t really want to take the time to learn all the details. Plus, I find the details depressing. But my husband reads everything cover to cover and is well-informed about almost everything and so, when I find myself wondering about what’s actually going on in Tunisia, I just ask him. It’s very refreshing to remain deliberately under-informed in this world of the non-stop news cycle. How much time do I save? Maybe ten minutes a day plus a whole lot of brain space.

– David sent out a hilarious post-holiday email to his family and friends saying something to the effect of, “Dear Ones, A better father would probably be able to get his kids to write thank-you notes. But I’m not that guy. So please accept this generic email as a sign of our sincerest thanks for the gift/card/well-wishes you sent/made/delivered. We really like/appreciate/use it a lot. We love you. Sincerely…” This single dad’s big savings was in deciding to quit nagging his kids. Again, some gain in time, probably, the bigger gain was in his newly-peaceful approach toward his kids.

So what could you just give up on?


1) Look in the areas of your life where there are a lot of “shoulds” going on in your head.

2) Be willing to sacrifice some pleasure for a greater good. All of the activities above were at least somewhat pleasurable – Alison loves food and cooking, Nancy loved Facebook, Jessica loved her choir, I love being well-read and David loves having polite kids. But what if the gain in time or peace of mind is greater than the pleasure factor?

3) Is the gain in time or peace of mind greater than the ego gratification? (This is a biggie – so be gentle but firm with yourself in your answer to this one.) After all, it can feel pretty good to know that, “you did everything yourself, ” or that “you stay connected online,” or that “you sing,” “you’re informed,” “you appear to have perfect kids.” Your ego could take quite a hit, here. But there is great freedom in stepping down off the moral high ground.

4) I would not eliminate anything in the arena of personal care. The time you spend working out, meditating and getting your hair cut is a valuable investment in your appearance and your self-respect. Clearly, this is just my big ol’ opinion (and I suppose if you’re spending an hour blow-drying your hair every morning or two hours a week at the manicurist keeping up your elaborate acrylics, you could consider an adjustment there…) but I really want you to keep your self feeling good and looking current. Not necessarily dressed in cutting-edge fashion, but in a style that is neat, clean, well-fitted to your lifestyle and, you know, from this decade.

5) Try it before you decide. Consider eliminating something for a week or a month before you cut it out entirely. After all, if you really miss it, you can always go back to it.

So, what will you selectively neglect today?