I try not to make grand declarations of goals and plans for the new year.
Not because I have none – simply because I’ve had them for some time – I’ve been working on them for months already, and will continue to work on them tomorrow. And revise and detour as I go.
Instead, I find it useful to look at what I can shed. A ‘not to do’ list. An exercise in simplifying.
Here’s the thing: this time of year we women set our thoughts on ‘improving’. We look for perceived flaws and determine to ‘fix’ them. To fix ourselves. So we add to our already over-loaded schedule another dozen entries on our to do list.
(Side note: Self-improvement is not the same animal as personal growth by the way. One implies fixing something up; the other is about expansion and learning. One comes from a negative outlook; the other from a positive one).
We end up with a list of wants and desires, and possibly even a list of ways to achieve them, only to find that we can’t possibly fit another thing in. Much like dinner time on Christmas Day: a table of delicious possibilities and nowhere to fit it.
So we, mostly, fail to achieve what we want.
Entrepreneur and speaker Matthew Michalwicz, author of the book Life in Half a Second, says people fail because they don’t act, and they don’t act for one or more of four reasons: a lack of desire (they don’t want it enough); a lack of belief (they don’t believe they can do it); a lack of knowledge (they don’t know how to achieve it); or fear.
So if you haven’t achieved what you want, which of the four reasons applies to you? Do you not want it badly enough? Do you not believe you can do it? Do you lack the know-how to do it? Or are you scared of what it will take to get there?
Anyway, I digress. Back to the shedding. Because I think for women today, it’s what most of us need to do in order to make room for these other intentions and desires in the first place.
We live in such an over-crowded schedule, that fitting something else on the to do list is a squeeze and an effort. So an annual shedding, and New Year is as good a time as any, could well be the place to start. To create less before you create more.
A ‘not to do’ list, a concept I first encountered via Danielle LaPorte, seems far more achievable than a to do list. It requires less effort, not more effort. It’s not about self-improvement, or fixing something about yourself. It’s simply a realisation that you are in control of what you do, and you have the power to shed what you don’t want.
Tim Ferriss has a similar New Year process that he calls a past year review, that includes a not to do list. His process involves looking at the good and bad of the past year and identifying the main things that you didn’t like about that previous year and putting them on the cull or reduce list.
Your list doesn’t need to be full of large declarations in order to be impactful – listing some small bad habits can be enough to create the space you need to do more of things you never have time for, or simply feel better.
A Not To Do List
- Spend longer than 10 minutes a day on Facebook/Instagram
- Stay up past 9.30pm because I know I’ll be too tired the next day if I do
- Watch rubbish TV and re-runs I’ve seen a hundred times already
- Spend longer than 50 minutes at a time at the computer
- ‘Fill’ spare time with a chore
It could go on, this list, and yet already the days feel more spacious, with room for me to pick from the table of delicious possibilities and intentions for the coming year.