Quit 5 Things - Revolutionary Resolutions
Over the last few years I have become a fan of Seth Godin, starting with his book “The Dip” and continuing to his Startup School podcast series. “The Dip” is mainly about clearing out the cruft in your life in order to excel at the important things which I have been putting into practice for the last few years. One way I have done that is redefining my New Years resolutions.
The concept New Years Resolutions is pretty antiquated at this point. Tracking human behavior and studies have shown that most resolutions get dropped within a few weeks and that it takes at least thirty days of doing something to make it into a habit. My take on resolutions in the new year is the opposite approach, dropping old resolutions to focus in on important remaining commitments.
Time & Attention
There are a ton of limits in life but one of them that I hold true is the limit on time and attention. You only have so much time and you can only pay so much attention to things in your life, to your commitments. Multitasking is no longer in vogue as it turns it out it is more like multi-failing. The brain can only really process one thing at a time and switching between tasks actually takes mental energy. In essence, the more you have on your plate, the less likely you will get anything done. Quitting things actually helps accomplish the other things you decided not to quit.
Free Mental Space
Instead of taking on new things to incorporate into my life, which generally come up throughout the year, I will identify things to quit. I look for things that I am doing but can’t remember why I am doing them anymore. These could be things from time wasting habits to commitments I have made that no longer seem to fit my life such as hobbies that I no longer enjoy as much. For example I have been a website builder since 1996 and have some websites that go back that long. In recent years I have decided to quit some, clearing up mental space to put into other projects. In 2012 I decided to quit Apple’s iDisk as it was antiquated and buggy, which popped into my head every time I had to access it for a file. In 2010 I decided to quit collecting bar coasters which had been fun in college, but now just filled up my living room drawers. I was once a home brewer of beer but since getting married that equipment just sat around gathering dust. I would lie to myself saying that “someday” I would get back to brewing but never did. Once I decided to quit it, giving away all the stuff and throwing out the rest, it freed up that naggy part of my brain and was a big relief.
Quit List Process
I keep a note in Evernote called “Quit 5 Things” with years and bulleted lists of things to quit. “Why five things?” you ask. It seems like the right number per year giving me twelve months to accomplish the actual act of quitting. Throughout the year if I identify something that is just taking up time, or that I do but can’t remember why, I add it to the list for next year. In December I come back to the list and identify the five for the next year adding or deleting if needed. In January I take each one and turn it into a project, something I will assign tasks to and review weekly until it is done. As the year goes on I check off the ones I have successfully quit and clear out any old materials such as files, folders, repeating tasks or physical documents. If successful at the end of the year I have quit them all and put that time and attention back to other things.
While it may seem strange you will be amazed at how much clearer your mind feels and more energy you have to dedicate to all of your other commitments when you learn to quit some things every year. If you have any tips on quitting or just want to chat feel free to connect on Twitter@JasonMAtwood or comment below.