What Is Truly Necessary?

by Stephen Mills on October 22, 2011

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve October 24, 2011 at 4:54 am

I feel that we all get very much stressed or overstressed because we do many things that are unnecessary, amid our routine jobs. Thank you for the helpful article that showed me that if you want to be ahead in the rat race we must not waste time in unproductive activities.
Steve´s last blog post ..Don’t you worry people – A few points on why you should never worry

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John October 24, 2011 at 6:30 am

I totaly agree with Steve here – at least 50% of what we do or deal with is completely unnecessary for living proper life that include all our need. Infact, the reason to this is purely the influence of our society on us, through the media, daily interaction etc…
John´s last blog post ..Selected Ex Girlfriend Quotes

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Rosalia October 24, 2011 at 11:30 am

Thank you for the amazing article! We all always waste time in activities that completely yield zero results. I feel that we must always monitor ourselves as to what we are doing is going to fetch us good result or not.
Rosalia´s last blog post ..Como engordar : algunas soluciones por video

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Stephen Mills October 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hi Rosalia,

Thank you for that wonderful comment.

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Derrick October 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Yes! People often get lost in their “doings”. Thinking the more they do the better off they are. Time to spend more time on “being” rather then “doing”.

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Stephen Mills October 26, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hello Derrick,

Yes! 🙂

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Adriana October 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Hi Steve, people forgot to relax, and enjoy the simple life style it is about time they realize this and get on with the order of things, God, Family, Work, Relax….
all other things will fall in place, I know I learn the hard way, so now I really can do a lot more and have more time and enjoy life…

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Stephen Mills October 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

Hi Adriana,

Thanks for commenting!

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jlem1125 October 26, 2011 at 3:27 am

I always thought that , whenever I’m doing something, it’s because it is necessary. Now that I read this post, I realize, that a lot of things that I’m doing is unnecessary. But, if I’m doing something that’s unnecessary but having fun doing it, doesn’t that become something that is necessary?
jlem1125´s last blog post ..Anxiety Or Panic Attack Symptoms

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Stephen Mills October 26, 2011 at 8:15 am

Hello jlem1125,

This article wasn’t intended to get you to stop doing something you want to be doing. The point is if you want to do A, but you don’t have time because you are doing B, is to ask if B is really necessary.

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Ruth October 27, 2011 at 10:43 am

I was so busy with so many things before and end up not doing well with most of them. I decided to set some priorities. I know my limits and it is better I focus my time and energy on things that are most important. Thank you for the advices; they are a great addition to my new way of living.
Ruth´s last blog post ..how to flirt with a girl

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Maria October 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I loved your post. I agree with you that 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. Great post, thanks for sharing it.
Maria´s last blog post ..How can i win the lottery?

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Rachelle November 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

This is a great article, I think what is truly necessary is that we should have to know what are important things to be be done and you know how to prioritize.
Rachelle´s last blog post ..Getting Pregnant Quick

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nadixan November 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm

We sometimes stressed out from our daily routines because we tend to do everything in one time. We need to do it even if it is not so important to do. We sometimes over do things for ourselves and complain.
nadixan´s last blog post ..How To Kiss Video

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Beth Smith November 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I agree with you that 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, Thanks for the post, keep sharing.
Beth Smith´s last blog post ..How can i win the lottery?

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Elena November 28, 2011 at 7:47 am

I mostly agree that it’s important to simplify, but I’m not sure what you meant by “stop reading.” I could see this being true if someone was a hypochondriac and spending too much time reading about symptoms and illnesses. But otherwise I mostly disagree with you. People should be reading MORE, not less. As a blog writer, I would think you’d subscribe to that!

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Stephen Mills November 28, 2011 at 8:35 am

Elena, I would NEVER suggest people stop reading in general and I read more than anyone I have ever known. Nobody I’ve known is even close. What I was suggesting was that people stop obsessing, reading, and watching all things politics.

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Elena November 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I’m sorry I misunderstood! I am with you there… especially because political news is so full of opinion and the news isn’t required to back up its statements!

I guess I’m guilty of being too opinionated sometimes too. Thank you for your awesome work and keep it up!

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Fabrizio November 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

Sometimes in life we can caught-up being very busy doing stuff that is not really important, to then not have the time to do the really important stuff. In a few recent movies I watched I learnt a few lessons about this. In my blog find out more:
http://fabpoli.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-movies-taught-me.html

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