4 simple ways to stop doing things that don’t matter

To stop doing things that don’t matter seems like an obvious one, but in actual fact, it’s not. What you think you prioritise and what you actually prioritise are two different things.

Most of us have common priorities on the list, like exercising and spending time with family for example, but in reality, we might be placing larger importance on browsing our Facebook feeds and checking emails. I used to feel so overwhelmed and anxious about not having enough time do things I wanted to. When I really took stock of how much time I spent checking emails, watching junk on Netflix and mindlessly scrolling Instagram I realised I had plenty of time – I was spending it on the wrong things. 

It’s the hard truth, but according to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists;

“your priorities are what you do each day — everything else is simply a should.”

This is a great realisation to have (if you haven’t already) because you can begin to see how you actually live with true clarity and adjust from there. Here are 4 easy ways you can stop doing things that don’t matter.

Write a list

With full transparency, scribble own a list of all the things you actually do on a day-to-day basis. It’s imperative you try not to sugar coat this bit. It may not be written on your to-do list, but you might be spending an unaccounted and habitual period of time each day picking on food from your pantry, scrolling Facebook, or Instagram for example.

These are your real priorities. But you’re lucky you caught them red-handed because now that you’re aware of them, you can begin to take action to reduce these behaviours. Maybe you ban yourself from picking and only eat at meal times, or you delete some social media apps — do whatever it takes to remove these time-wasting and banal activities from your life.

Write another list

Now write a list of all the things you’d much rather be prioritising. This could be making more time for that passions project you’ve been wanting to work on, or finally booking a dance class. Whatever it is, nothing will get done unless you actually schedule it.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey

Scare yourself into action

Fear is a wonderful motivator and while it can be destructive in many cases, in some cases it can be used to your advantage. Author Jim Ron encapsulated this beautifully when he said “discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tonnes.” If you’re nervous about actioning one of your goals or priorities, think instead about the regret you’d feel in 20 or 30 years from now having not taken any action at all.

Another motivation concept to reflect on is the law of least resistance. If we’re doing lots of what we know we shouldn’t do, there’s an underlying sense of resistance that can be too deep-seated for us to be fully conscious of. Additionally, doing things we know we should be doing might seem too difficult, but in the end, it reduces our feelings of resistance and puts us in a state of flow. It’s actually easier in the long run, to do the things we know we should be doing.

Stop giving a f*ck

It’s the book we’ve all heard of by now, but there’s some poignant arguments that NY Times best-selling author Mark Manson shares that are worth keeping in mind. With the same sentiment as ‘stop doing things that don’t matter’ but a different tagline, he elaborates that “we only get a limited number of f*cks in one lifetime”— which means we need to spend them wisely. Another interchangeable word for f*cks, is time. Time is our greatest asset and we all have 24 hours in a day in which to spend our f*cks. We wouldn’t spend our money frivolously on things we don’t need, so it seems wasteful to spend our time on empty endeavours that don’t lead anywhere. Here’s three ideas Mark shares on how to stop giving a f*ck;

  1. If you’re able to stop caring about the pain your goals require, you’ll be virtually unstoppable
  2. Learn how to prioritise your thoughts and focus. This is not easy, but continually practising it will make sure you’re more likely to end up on the path you desired in the first place — without getting blown by circumstance and distraction 20 degrees in the other direction.
  3. When a person has no problems (e.g. educated middle class), the mind automatically invents some. Next time you notice yourself ruminating on your problems, remember it’s the mind’s biological disposition to find problems to keep you safe — and quickly drop the story.
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