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How to Stop Doing Things

exhaustion negative feelings people-pleasing Dec 17, 2022
A blue room contains many doors (choices) by Arek Socha of Pixabay

It’s easy to add things to the list of to-dos. We are highly effective, highly responsible people, and many of us are quite skilled at hustling to make stuff happen, especially in service of others.

But when was the last time that you removed something from the list? When was the last time that you sat down and thought about all of the little things in your day, and decided that items 38, 54, and 72 were simply not important?

Sometimes we are doing things, but they aren’t really important things. They don’t help us, or really anyone else.  They might be things that are people-pleasing in nature, or born out of perfectionist habits, but truly not necessary.  They aren’t worth our time. But we are in the habit of doing them anyway. Full paragraphs when bullets would do. Replying to every email.

This is different from things that don’t get done. Things that don’t get done, may be abundant in our lives. Our lists may be so long, written (sticky notes, planners, all those cute little notebooks I’ve bought….), on our phones, in our heads, and things often don’t get acted on. For a variety of reasons. But things that don’t get done aren’t benign. They linger. They drag us down. We have negative emotions in response to the undone. 

But when you decide to stop doing things, or decide to no longer have those things on the list, the drama is done. No longer do you see that item and feel guilty, lazy or embarrassed looking at it every day, or shuffling it from one list to the other. You made a decision that it’s either not important to do at all, or it’s not important for you to do.

For this week, I invite you to decide to stop doing something. Or some things.

This can be big stuff, but usually it’s easiest to dip your toe in by deciding to stop doing little stuff. You can stop folding the kid’s clothes (they usually don’t care if clothes are wrinkly in my experience, and if they do care, teach them how to do it themselves). Unsubscribe from email lists that distract you, without adding value (or at least route them automatically to a folder where you can find them if you need them). Stop writing multiple paragraphs back to patient messages in the inbox (it’s either a quick response or it’s an appointment/phone call).

I used to make lots of stops on the way home from work. I would see that we needed something at home, or someone at home would tell me we were out of something, and I would make a stop. These items were nearly always non-urgent. And they certainly were not an efficient use of my time. But I had to decide to stop.

So stop telling yourself “read a NEJM article every week” when you haven’t once cracked it open.

Take “start practicing piano” off the list.

If you take something off of the list, and decide that you need it back because it is important to you, don’t even put it on the “to do” list. Schedule it. Commit to it. Make a plan to get it done. Move it from an aspirational priority to an actual priority that you commit too. Decide why it’s important, where it fits best in your day/week, and what you will do when it’s on the schedule and you don’t “feel like it.”

Most importantly, let’s accept that there are far more worthwhile things to spend your time doing (and less worthwhile things….I see you cat videos!) then there is room in your life to do. What will you do with your 24 hours per day? And your 7 days per week? And your 365 days per year? 

Yes, you could learn Spanish and piano and you can volunteer, or run your kid’s PTA fundraisers and the Girl Scout Troop and bake homemade treats for your neighbors. 

You are highly capable. 

But your time is finite. 

And your energy and interest are finite. 

Choose what is important to you, and decide to let go of things that you are not currently prioritizing. 

Don’t kick the can down the road. Take it off the list, and decide to stop.

If it’s important, commit to it and schedule it. And then show up.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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