As I transitioned from my day job six years ago to begin the life of an entrepreneur, a very wise mentor and friend told me the hardest decisions I would face would not be which opportunities to say “Yes,” but rather to which ones I would say “No.”
He was correct! My apologies to Elton John, but for me, sorry is not my hardest word, it is “no.”
To function at our best, we must decide what we are going to stop doing in the future.
Making an activity list is easy, making an inactivity list is much harder.
Here are a few ways to produce an inactivity list.
1.) Assess the past month(s) by looking at your calendar, and identify the activities that you should not have done. They drained you emotionally, wasted your time, frustrated you, or monopolized your life with little or no return. Add them to your list.
Me: I print the calendar, circle in red the “wasters” and add as many of them as possible to my inactivity list in my journal.
2.) Evaluate stressful meetings or people that cost a disproportionate emotional toll. Add as many of these to the list as possible.
Me: I constantly conduct what I call an “empathy stress test.” During meetings, I check myself to see that I do not become physically tense, (i.e. my shoulders tight, eyes scrunched, etc), and I evaluate the meeting afterwards and I jot down an emotional toll from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). I try to add any person or meeting topic that costs an 8 or higher to my inactivity list.
3.) Do a yearly planning meeting and list all the things you do and their ROI (return on investment). Make a pie graph for a visual wake-up call, and add to the inactivity list any jobs that require too much time with little or no reward. Note: Many times some of our pet projects are the ones that must be added to the list.
Me: When I first started my own publishing company with global distribution, I had the grand idea of publishing other authors. When the pie graph was created that following year, it was painfully obvious there was very little money earned and yet an inordinate amount of time expended. I reluctantly but faithfully added it to the inactivity list.
4.) Add hobbies that cost you emotionally to your inactivity list.
Me: After the sale of a successful business a few years ago, I celebrated by fulfilling a lifelong dream. I joined a prestigious golf club. After a few short months, I realized that my competitive nature combined with the time cost combined with the clubhouse atmosphere produced a less than desired effect. Instead of the refreshment of an enjoyable 18 holes, I would come home stressed and emotionally distraught. I added it to my inactivity list, started painting watercolors and the rest, as they say, is history.
What one item should you add to an inactivity list?
What one thing should you quit doing in the future?