When you think about the things that are important to you, do you wind up with a To Do List that’s a mile long? Do you get frustrated, feeling like there is no way to get it all done? (Are you nodding your head yes?)
All right. Let me ask you a different question, one that might be more useful. How long is your Do NOT Do list? Do you even have a Do NOT Do list? Have you ever thought about such a thing?
If you think I’m totally nuts, you can stop reading now. But if you want a really cool two-list strategy for being happier and more productive in your hobby, your art — and even your life — keep reading. What I’m going to share with you can totally change the way you look at your world.
The first step is to choose a topic and make a big, long list. It can be a big topic, like the 25 Things I Want to Accomplish In My Life. Or, it can be something smaller in scope, like What I Want To Accomplish as a Quilter / Writer / Painter.
Whatever “it” is, make a list of the 25 most important and compelling things you want to do related to this topic. Are there specific quilts you want to make? A goal of making one for every grandchild? Certain techniques you want to master? Are there specific shows you want to enter or prizes you want to win?
There are no right or wrong answers — just 25 things that are important to you. Give yourself permission to think as big as you choose.
Once you have your list of 25 things, it’s time to whittle it down to size. In this step, you need to circle the five things that are more important to you than anything else on the list.
If you are working on your Quilting list, what are the top five things you want to accomplish. If you are working on your “make a more inviting home” list, choose the top five.
I can hear some of you screaming “No! They are ALL important! I can’t cross any of them off the list!”
I know how hard this is. I’ve been working on my “Life List” for the past 18 months and it’s not easy to whittle the list down to 4 or 5 things — especially when we live in a society that preaches that we can (and should) have it all! Just know that there is a big reward for going through this whittling-down process. It’s worth the effort.
So, what about the 20 things that didn’t make the Top 5 List? Surely we can’t just toss them, right? They were really important, or they would not have been on the list in the first place.
It is so tempting to think you can do it all, that you can work on the 20 in your spare time. That you can work on the 20 when you want a break from the Top 5.
But here’s the deal. In order to accomplish the five, everything else has to go on the Do NOT Do List — and stay there until the five have been accomplished. Think about that. All 20 of the other “important” things go on the Avoid At All Costs List to make space for the five. I know this sounds harsh, but there is a reason — and a reward — for keeping a Do NOT Do List.
The Freedom Of The Top 5 Filter
When you whittle your list down to 5 Important Things, you have created a filter that makes your quilting, painting, writing — or life — much easier to manage.
When an idea pops into your head, you compare it to your list. If it fits, you hang onto the idea. If it doesn’t, you file it away. When you see a class you might want to take, you compare it to your list. If the class will help you accomplish one of your important things, you sign up. If it doesn’t, you can say no with no regrets. If someone calls with an opportunity, you compare it to your list. If it fits, you are open to learn more. If not, you say no and move on.
Just having this filter — your list of Top 5 Things — can be incredibly liberating. By having a short list of things you say YES to, it is so much easier to say NO to the things that are not important.
Your Lists Are Not Cast In Stone
If the thought a Top 5 List feels like climbing into a straight-jacket, just remember that your list is not cast in stone. It is your list, and it will naturally change as you learn and grow. If you can learn to use your list in a healthy way — as a filter that allows you to say YES to the things that are important — it will serve you well.
And that Do NOT Do List? Keep it around. When something doesn’t fit through the filter of your Top 5, it goes straight onto the Do NOT Do List. By consciously adding something to the Do NOT Do List, you free up all the energy that would be used up by letting it hang around on a Maybe Later List.
My Do NOT Do List is getting longer all the time, and I’m loving it! By putting things on this list, by giving myself permission NOT to do things, I have a lot more time, energy and attention for the things that really matter. As a bonus, the things on my Top 5 List look a whole lot more “do-able” — and that makes me happy.
Do you have a strategy for choosing what’s important and what’s not? Do you give yourself permission NOT do to things? I’d love to hear your comments here or over on our Facebook page.