I’ve hesitated to write an article called “Stop Doing The Unnecessary” because it seemed so well … unnecessary. Who wouldn’t agree with that? How obvious can you get? Of course in our overly busy lives we are not doing things that are unnecessary are we?
And yet in my own life and the lives of those I observe, what I see is a lot of unnecessary activities. So I think the problem is not the advice should be to stop doing what is not necessary so much as it is getting people to see that much of what they do is unnecessary. Then it becomes obvious they should stop it.
So let’s start with the basic idea. In order to thrive you need to do fewer things not more. We are forever writing down lists or thinking up things we wish we could be doing but don’t have the time to do. We are adding to our lives when we should be subtracting from them.
I have loads more time to do things I really want to do now than I used to because I stopped doing almost everything else. And I mean almost everything. Some of those things were hard to stop because I thought I had to do them. Even at your job you will find that if you just stop doing most things, nothing bad will happen. Your boss might even notice how much more effective you are!
I recommend (and use myself) a two step approach to cutting out the unnecessary:
- Stop doing something completely and see what happens. Life is an experiment and so try some elimination experiments; some big ones. It may be scary but the risky ones are the ones that provide the big payoff.
- If you absolutely cannot stop the activity completely, apply the 80/20 rule. If there ever was a time for the 80/20 rule it is this. The 80/20 rule basically says that you get about 80% of the effect for 20% of the effort. Therefore if you can live with 80% of the results, then 80% of the effort you have been expending is unnecessary.
I stopped doing Facebook and Twitter completely because I did not like the activity and I believe it was only marginally effective in promoting my blog (which was one of the main reasons for me doing it in the first place). What I got back was time and what I got rid of was an unnecessary pain in the ass.
An example of the second might be housework or yard work. Maybe you can stop them completely by paying someone else to do them but since money is your time I’m not sure that is the point. However, the 80/20 rule applies here big time. Whatever level you are at now, try getting 80% of the results with 20% of the time and see if you can live with it.
I stopped replying to most of my emails because it truly is unnecessary and I have other things I want to do. I refuse to participate in many requested meetings. Parents you can stop spending so much time organizing your children’s lives and let them free play or organize their own activities amongst themselves. Talk about a win-win. You get more free time and happier, well-adjusted, and self-sufficient children. Stop trying to control others and you’ll be amazed at how much time and peace of mind you get back. Stop obsessing, reading, and watching politics. Stop committing to things that are not truly core to your values because there are other things that are more important.
People will argue about how much of what they do really is necessary. I know because I’ve been there. But I don’t believe it anymore. It’s a delusion. You feel important by being busy but in reality you are missing what is truly important. I honestly believe the vast majority of people, and that includes you, could stop almost all of what they think is necessary and would find that most people wouldn’t notice and the world would continue to spin. Arguing about it is a pissing match that I don’t care to engage in. Either you get it or you don’t.
Most people won’t take such drastic advice and will continue spending their life minutes on things that are totally unnecessary and don’t contribute to their happiness. Those who are willing to take a chance and try something different may find a whole new world opens up to them.
If you read this article and then find some trivial thing and stop it, then you will get trivial benefit. Although I agree you should stop the trivial things, the real payoff comes when you stop the big ones. The point of this article is not to stop a few small things. Anyone can do that. The true test is whether you can stop some big ones that scare you.
Finally, let me say that I know some things are necessary and you just can’t stop them. I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing is that much of what we define as necessary and that includes what you do, is simply not.
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