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It’s What You Don’t Do

Over the past couple of years I have had several people ask me, “How do you do it?” In addition to juggling multiple responsibilities at work or in grad school, I always found time to do some sort of physical activity almost every day, read several books at the same time, while finding ample time for adventures and a robust social life. The secret for me really isn’t “how I do it,” but what I don’t do.

By not doing a lot of the usual things that people do, I find myself with more time and money to spend on things that are important to me like health, personal development, relationships, and adventures. Here are just a few examples of things I purposely don’t do…

First of all, I don’t watch television. This one is HUGE. Compared to the average American, I have an extra 34 hours a week in productive time. I repeat, in 2010 the average American watched 34 hours of television each week. That’s almost a full-time job!

I don’t go out to watch movies. I get all of my media from the public library (books, DVDs and books on CD). Sometimes it takes a couple months on the holds list to watch what I want, but it’s free. Movies are just as good a year after they are released.

I don’t play video games. I play in real life.

I don’t really follow sports all that much. I prefer to play sports, not watch them.

I don’t commute an hour or more to work each way. For the past year my commute was six minutes each way. Now that I’m at our corporate office, it’s around 20-25 minutes. Still better than most people I know in my region.

I don’t accept meetings unless I know what the agenda is and whether or not I have to attend.

I don’t respond to emails unless I have to. I also unsubscribe from everything I get signed up for unless I really value the content.

I don’t go shopping at malls or department stores. The extremely few retail items I’ve purchased over the past year were purchased through my Amazon Student account (free for six months if you have a .edu email address) and delivered to my house in two days with free shipping.

I don’t go out to eat except for special occasions. Usually I can make a much better meal for a fraction of the price. And then when I do go out to eat, it’s actually a treat instead of the usual routine.

I don’t pay my bills. Well, actually I do pay them, but they’re all set to auto pay online. Paying anything by check is so 20th century.

I don’t stay in hotels. I use or stay with friends, which is way more fun than staying in a lonely hotel room by myself.

I don’t buy music. Spotify and Pandora meet all of my music needs. If you haven’t gotten a Spotify account, get one today. It’s amazing.

I don’t smoke. How people still smoke boggles my mind. The information is out there on the risks.

I don’t waste my time with people who are negative, emotionally draining, or drama prone. I’ve had to break up with a couple friends over my lifetime, but you are who your friends are.

And finally, I don’t have any kids, pets, or plants. But I love being around all three.


So How Do I Figure Out What To Stop Doing?

An exercise that I like to do with my coaching clients is: “Start, Stop, Continue.”

Take a piece of paper and split it up into three columns: Start, Stop, and Continue.

  1. “Start” are the activities that you should be doing that you aren’t doing now. What might work better than what I’m doing now?
  2. “Stop” are the activities that you are currently doing that don’t create any value for you or the organization. What’s not working?
  3. “Continue” are those activities that you are currently doing that you should keep doing. What is working well that I should keep doing?

In the resource constrained environment that most companies today are operating in, the “Stop” column should be your main focus. Employees today are bombarded with requests for their time and often times it seems like the only time to get “actual work” done is before or after work. So focus on what you need to stop doing and you’ll start getting more done.

This simple exercise has many different applications in addition to your work life: health, relationships, and finances to name a few.

What could you stop doing today that could free up more time and money to do what you really want? Reply back in the comments section with what you are committing to stop doing today. Then write down three actionable steps that you can take immediately to support your goal. Then do them.

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