When you’re trying to change your life or pursue a dream, what you don’t do is often as important as what you do.
We’re all given the same 24 hours each day. It’s easy to feel like there’s not enough time to do what you really want to be doing.
After all the “have to do’s” there’s barely any time left for the “want to do’s.”
But how many of those things that you take for granted as being requirements each day actually don’t have to be done at all?
When you actually think about your list of things you’re planning to do today or this week, how many of them could be excluded without much consequence?
Life is a giant series of decisions. Who you are today is the sum of the decisions you’ve made in your life. Every decision you make has an effect on other decisions. By choosing to spend your time as you do today, you’re deciding not to spend time doing the other things you’d really like to be doing.
The things you don’t do free up time for other opportunities.
To make progress toward your goals, you’re going to have to get comfortable with not doing some of the things you do today. That means you’ll have to get comfortable with letting some negative consequences happen in favor of other positive consequences.
As I heard Tim Ferriss say in San Francisco last year, you have to get comfortable with “letting lots of little bad things happen.”
What consumes most of your days right now?
What if you didn’t do some of those things?
What would the actual consequences be?
Just because an action (or lack of action) creates some negative consequences doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it (or not do it). You have to weigh the negative consequences against the potential greater positive consequences to decide what’s really best.
This is why most people can’t change their lives in any major way. People get consumed with minimizing all negative consequences of their decisions instead of maximizing the positive ones.
For example, what will happen if you don’t spend an hour meeting with someone you had on your calendar today? That person might be a little disappointed with you. But what could you do with that hour that would outweigh the downside of skipping the meeting?
Your time is precious. You have to ruthlessly decide how to spend it, otherwise the path of least resistance (avoiding all negative consequences) will naturally fill your days.
You have to learn to say “no” and get a little selfish if you want to make better things happen in your life.
Two Ways to Reclaim Your Days
Here are two exercises that will help you start reclaiming your days so you can maximize positive consequences.
1) Look at your calendar for the coming week.
Evaluate every appointment on your schedule. For each appointment, ask yourself this: “if I skipped this appointment, what would the consequences be?” Then, ask yourself “could I do something else with that time that would lead to positive consequences that outweigh the negative consequences of not attending?”
2) Create a “stop doing list.”
Repetitive tasks need to be scrutinized just like on-off appointments. You might not be able to quit your repetitive tasks cold turkey, but you can stop having to do a lot of things if you plan ahead.
Think about all the things you have to do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Identify the ones that are not helping you make progress towards living the life you really want to live. What if you just stopped doing them today?
If you can’t stop doing them right now, could you create a plan for cessation and make it happen in a week or month or three months?
Don’t be afraid to disappoint.
Trying to please everyone around you is an impossible task that will only keep you from getting what you want from life. Get comfortable with letting some negative consequences happen in favor of bigger better things.
A little selfishness might be just what you need to make a breakthrough.