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Forget your to-do list; start a to-quit list!

[ 17 ] September 16, 2010 |

When you get up in the morning and think about the coming day, how do you feel? If the answer resembles “ugh,” something needs to change.

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Photo by David Hoadley, courtesy of NSSL

I used to feel this way every morning. Look at the day, ugh, wish I could go back to bed. I call it my dread cloud. Gotta do the bills, don’t know if I have enough money to pay them all, should have done it days ago… Gotta call people back who are probably mad that I haven’t already called them back… Gotta do this work stuff that I’m not really sure how to do and has already taken way longer than expected and everybody probably thinks I’m a big slacker…

If your life feels like one big dread cloud, there is hope! It’s not easy, but you can fix it.

We’ve all heard a million times that the way to be more productive is to make a to-do list and work on checking things off. Sometimes that is helpful, especially if the tasks are small and not too arduous. But if your to-do list is full of tasks that are intimidating or unpleasant, looking at it is a great way to get more depressed.

Here’s an idea that may sound crazy and impossible: go through the list and cross out everything you hate. That’s right, start a to-quit list.

What!!!! But my life will fall apart!!! I can’t do that!

Ok, I understand, that’s exactly what I thought too. You can’t get rid of it all in one day, that’s for sure. Well, you could, but there would probably be some pretty bad consequences. But you can get rid of the majority of it over time. Pick the most-hated thing on the list, and imagine how you’d feel if it was gone. Now imagine giving the axe to the whole top five and waking up without them hanging over your head. What a rush! But how to get rid of them? After all, they got there for a reason.

Well, maybe now is the time to think about that reason. For each of your hated tasks, ask yourself some questions:

  • why is it on the list?
  • what do you hate about it? is there a way to accomplish the same thing without being so miserable?
  • what would happen if you just didn’t do it? could you handle the consequences?
  • if not, how can you get out of it? can you delegate it to someone else? rearrange your life so it no longer needs to be done?
  • or would it be simpler to just finish the dang thing already and check it off? If so, do that. Start today.

Some tasks seem necessary. Well, we all have to go to work so we can pay the bills, right? Sure, you have to do something to earn money. But if you hate going to work every morning, you’re wasting your life. I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, I mean literally, you are wasting the hours and days that make up your life by using all that time on something you hate. Try to find another job, even if it takes a career change. Work takes up way too much of your precious time to be something you hate. Similarly, maybe you’re in a horrible relationship and the thing you dread most is interacting with your significant other. If that’s true, think about what you’re doing with this person.

Our lives are made up of the minutes we spend. People say you can’t buy happiness–“money can’t buy me love” after all–but that’s not 100% true. Think about it: time is money. That also means money is time. You trade your time for money when you work a job where you get paid to be there x hours per week. Flip that around, and you can trade money for time by hiring people to do things you don’t want to do or by cutting back on your work hours or other responsibilities.

This all sounds impossible at first, but work on it a little bit at a time. If I can do it, anybody can. Since hearing this advice, I’ve chopped out a whole ton of tiny annoyances, backed out of being the treasurer of my church council, eliminated a commute I hated, ended an unhealthy marriage, and cut my hours at work by 20%. Some of these were major changes, and they were hard and scary to make. Some cost me money. But since making them, I have way less hassle and almost no dread. I feel like I’ve bought back my life.

Everybody’s life is different, and what works for me may not work for you, but I encourage you to figure out what will, and then do it. How much would you pay to buy yourself another month or year to live? You can’t really do that, but you can change the time you have, to put more life in it. What’s it worth to you to make that happen?

About Cara Stein: I'm a writer and dreamer with a PhD in self-reinvention. (Or was that computer science?) Whether you're stuck, lost, or just looking to enjoy your life more, I want to help because I've been there!

Comments (17)

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  1. […] Find a way to get more free time. Work on that to-quit list! […]

  2. […] like my job, but I think it just made it onto my to-quit list. I have too many financial obstacles to quit it the whole way this coming year without something of […]

  3. […] there truly is no time in your schedule for pursuing your passion, you desperately need to start a to-quit list!) The time spent doing what you love is the best part of life, so do it as much as […]

  4. Prose Ventures says:

    I like the premise of your blog- keep it up, and I’ll keep checking in! I have a category you’ll probably like:
    http://individualexperience.wordpress.com/category/illumination/

  5. […] aren’t smileys, think about why you’re doing them, and consider adding them to your to-quit list. Life is way too short to be wasted on these false obligations! And here’s a little-known […]

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  7. […] still think starting a to-quit list and eliminating as much scheduling and obligation as you can is the best thing to do, but that […]

  8. Lex Mosgrove says:

    Hey, that’s a really cool idea! So gonna try that. :)

  9. […] Forget your to-do list; start a to-quit list! […]

  10. Katia says:

    Thanks a lot. First post which has impacted me in 2014

  11. Shiku says:

    Wow..I’ve been looking at my(TO DO LIST-2A4 sheets)and it’s driving me crazy.. And voila (THE QUIT LIST)I only have one item left. LIVE AND LET LIVE! Thank you thank you

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