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Resolve NOT To

We’re almost halfway through January. How are your resolutions holding up?

Have you been exercising? Eating better? Is your closet organized, your calendar streamlined?

Or are you struggling a little to fit those new goals in? Maybe you’re feeling anxious, like there’s something you know you “should” be doing…you just can’t remember what.

Too much doing…

Like many of you, I’ve been plugging along on several important goals during the first weeks of 2012, and yes, I’ve made some progress. But I’m also getting a little weary of so much doing. How can I possibly maintain this burst of energy throughout the year, to keep doing the things that are most important to me without burning out?

Then the other day it occurred to me: how can I expect to make room for those new goals until I axe some of the stuff that’s getting in the way?

Try not-doing, too.

One of my tips for being a happier mom is making a “don’t-do” list: letting myself off the hook for the things I don’t really want to do (but feel like I should) or just can’t make a priority at the moment. Those “should do’s” and “want to do…someday’s” have a way of taking up valuable space in my psyche.

And just like it’s hard to focus on what you want to do right now when you’ve got lots of “someday…” and “maybe…” goals swirling around in your head, it’s almost impossible to find the time to commit to high-priority resolutions when you’re still spending time, energy, and resources on activities that aren’t as important to you.

The trick is that sometimes those important goals have serious competition. For example: I want to save money, but I also really want to fix up our house. Which do I want more? In the long term, saving is more important, so that means I have to cut back on some of the house-related spending. I simply can’t meet both goals at the same pace and the same time.

Photo by o5com

That’s why I need a “resolve NOT to” list. It reminds me that any goal worth pursuing requires some sacrifice, and helps me whittle away at the things that are most likely to get between my family and our highest priorities.

For example:

• My goal is to have relaxed time, at home, with my family most weekday evenings. So I resolve not to take on any recurring evening commitments between 5 and 7 p.m.

• My goal is to increase our monthly savings rate by 100%. So I resolve not to take on any new home-renovation projects until we’ve met that goal.

• My goal is to get eight hours of sleep each night. So I resolve not to watch Chopped on Food Network, which comes on at 10 p.m. (Oh, okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. I’ll only watch the reruns on the weekend.)

How about you?

Are your evenings feeling too rushed to squeeze in that nightly home-cooked meal you resolved to make every night? Or are you staying up late chatting on Facebook, leading to mornings too fuzzy to even consider that 6 a.m. run you planned on?

Whatever you’ve resolved to do, if it’s starting to feel impossible, there’s a good chance that something less important is standing in the way. What might you resolve not to do?

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  1. Jeanette

    Great post! Makes me think of that riddle; How do you carve an elephant out of a wooden block? Answer: You take away all that is not an elephant.

    I started making to-do-lists out of my goals every day now in January, and I’m having a hard time not making them too long. There is so much I really want to do, and wayyy to little time. So, simplicity. Simple routines. I started doing FlyLady again, and that frees up a lot of time (and stress).

    And I’m resolving not to freak out when I don’t get through my to-do-lists. I’m resolving to look at the accomplished items as a ta-da-list instead. And I’m resolving to make things like “take a long bath” and “go for a nice walk in the forest” a big part of them. 😉

    • Melissa

      I love that “ta-da list” … I need to start thinking that way! TA-DA … look what I DID do today!

      Many blessings,

  2. Katherine

    Great way to approach the new year. My husband naturally thinks in this way, much more than I. He is protective of our down-time and our evenings, and can say “no” very easily. I have a lot to learn!

  3. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I’m someone who looooves to start new projects–it’s so much more fun than following through and finishing my old ones 😉 So this is GREAT advice for me!

    I’ve made a goals list for 2012 that I really love, and I’m resolving to NOT add any major things to it until I tick those items off my list. For example, we’re overhauling our living room in March, and I am resolving NOT to start in on the bathroom fix-ups until the living room is all the way done.

    I’m resolving to get more sleep to, so I need to evaluate what my personal version of “not watching Chopped” is. Thanks for the great advice, Meagan!

  4. keely

    This is so inspiring! It reminds me of something my counselor said about giving myself permission to do things. I need to give myself permission to not do certain things, as well.

  5. Heather V

    Great post. I love committing to not taking on anything between 5-7pm.

    I made a 2012 goal to not take on any new major life projects I hadn’t already committed to PRIOR to 1/1.

    I already do enough, and enough is all I need to be.

  6. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    I was about to write a post on my New Year’s goals…but maybe I’ll go take an item or two off.

    One “not-to” I already made was to not to try to cling to old friends that we’re naturally growing away from, but rather deepen relationships with the ones I have, and be ready for new ones.

  7. Steph

    My pastor husband introduced me to the idea of a to-not-do list after reading about the necessity of churches deciding not only what they will do but what they will not do. Being in pastoral ministry our family has certainly had to set up boundaries about what we will not do. And when we thoughtfully put something on the to-not-do list it allows us to focus less on tasks and more on relationships.

  8. Erin @ Small and Simple Things

    Love this. Part of my vision for myself this year is being rested, so I do not start new cleaning projects at 10 pm. Usually when I’m tired, I suddenly want everything clean and get really obsessive, so I’m training myself NOT to do that and just go to bed.

  9. Candice

    Great post! How can we resolve to do more with the same 24 hours without giving up some things?

    This year, I resolved to spend less time in the kitchen. I work from home and homeschool, so we eat three meals a day at home. I can easily find myself spending more than two hours each day in the kitchen. I love food prep, but I need that time to focus on other things. So in 2012, I’m spending less time in the kitchen, and we’re all eating more simply. So far, so good!

  10. BethB

    While journaling goals on January 2 I realized my main professional (and lifestyle) goal needs to be finding a new profession. Clearly that’s going to happen in a single year nor am I even sure how to break that goal into bite size chunks. My husband and I were to set a very concrete goal for dropping one part of my professional life but this requires a big change in how we manage our finances. We’re excited but we understand getting our new system worked out is going to take time. This means some of our other goals and planning are on hold while we refocus.

    Basically, I (and our whole family) are on the verge of a Big Change which is very exciting but it’s not going to happen over night. Some of the goals I set for the year will work with figuring out our new direction but others need to be set aside. I’m taking Lisa Byrne’s Designed for Wellness class starting next week and looking at the Pre-course materials I can tell it’s going to help me get even more clarity.

    On a slightly tangental note, I’m convinced the clarity I seem to have developed is directly related to getting our house organized and decluttered and starting to manage my time much more efficiently. We had a really rough 2009-10 and now that we’ve gotten back on our feet we have the energy to fully examine our life and figure out how to make it even better. Yay!

  11. Marina

    Chopped at 10 pm gets me every night — I always get sucked in even though I know I need sleep more!

  12. Tanya

    I’m all over this. I’ve resolved NOT to answer the phone if I’m in the middle of something. As it rings, I ask myself, “Will I be annoyed if this is a telemarketer?” That’s a good question for me, since I don’t harbour anger issues against telemarketers. But someone else may need to change the internal question to suit them (or risk never answering the phone as long as they live). The, without call display, I’ve unhooked my answering machine. And VOILA! My phone no longer owns me.

  13. Heather Novak

    Meagan you ARE MARVELOUS. I love the concept, my hubs is god at reminding me as a get fired up about goals and changes that I cannot do everything, even if it is all wonderful. I resolve NOT to …. ummm. Lemme get back to you!

  14. Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

    What wonderful advice! I thrive off of setting goals for myself. Yet I know others who can’t stand them. I think it’s a personality thing. Would you agree?

  15. Elizabeth@ReadySetSimplify

    A goal I have is to be more productive/efficient. That means I resolve not to spend as much time on Facebook and floating around online.

  16. Lori@Mothering Matters

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
    ― Yutang Lin, The Importance Of Living
    I have been trying over the past several years to “eliminate the non-essentials”. It’s been good!
    I have never thought, however, of attaching them to my goals like you did! I love that! “In order to have . . . . I am not going to . . . ” instead of “In order to have . . . I will . . . “. I think we need both – the “I will” and the “I won’t”. Both are important – as it covers all bases then!
    Thanks for sharing this today!
    Now . . . on to make my New Year’s resolutions that I’ve been procrastinating on! 🙂 “I resolve to – make my NY’s goals/resolutions by this weekend. To do that I will not keep ‘checking my email first’ – as that turns into a timeless and unending vortex!” 🙂

  17. Jadah {family sponge}

    I love this. Sometimes it’s as simple as not taking on too many commitments at the beginning of the year. Tackling one thing at a time is what I’m trying to flow with right now. I love how you highlighted that some goals conflict with each other and there is some sacrifice involved. So true! I will have to work on prioritizing which goals are more important.

  18. Jennifer

    I’m doing GREAT with my resolutions. Of course that might be because I haven’t actually made any yet…

    I found a site dedicated to losing weight by eating healthy and doing a small amount of exercise. I guess my resolution is to get healthier. I can do that by not buying junk food at the grocery store and by not turning on the TV until after I’ve done say 3 pushups (yes, I have wimpy arms) and 20 crunches in the morning.

  19. Sarah

    I just started doing this the other day! I find resolutions slightly controlling (with the whole, DO THIS OR ELSE idea) so I finally just decided to decide what I wasn’t going to do the following day.

    It’s much easier when I decide, “Tomorrow, I will not turn on the TV.” Then, with just that one single thing decided everything else just falls in to place!

  20. Diane

    It’s the late night TV. It’s so peaceful after the kids go to bed. But I too am resolving to turn it off and be in bed with the light off by 10 pm.

  21. megan

    Love it. Since I had my son in August, I’ve been giving myself a pass on a lot of things, but I love that your “passes” have a purpose. It’s a great way to think about what you’re not doing.

  22. Fonda

    A timely reminder. I was running out of steam to ‘do it all’…now I have been reminded that I don’t have to, I just have to make better choices!

  23. Bonnie Jean

    I loved the article about what you “resolved not to do.” If anyone wishes to change their lives, they cannot change if they do not subtract some things in order to add others. Why did I not see that this was exactly what the problem was that I was having. You cannot do it all, all at once. That is for certain. Prioritizing is something I forgot to do in terms of how I use my time. Thank you for waking me up to that fact !

  24. Lisa Littlewood

    A very good point…Recently heard a friend speak about her resolutions to both “do more and less”…less of the bad stuff, the distracting stuff, the stuff that wastes time…more of the important stuff– connecting with people, helping family members out, making God a priority…at the end of the day, she said, “more God, less” her…that has really stuck with me this year…Thanks for this post..reaffirms what I’ve been thinking about.

  25. Becky

    I’ve resolved NOT to let my gas tank get less than 1/4 the way empty (like today). & to pay less library fines 🙂

  26. Emily @ Random Recycling

    Pinterest should be on my “Not-do” list at 10pm. Great idea to make a purposeful lists of no’s so more time is available for all the good stuff.

  27. priest's wife

    I’m working on KEEPING the few resolutions that I made- but probably we should all start anew every month or so- a whole year is overwhelming…

  28. Beth West

    Great point, Meagan. It makes sense that if your 24 hours are already filled it’s going to be a struggle to add in more activities that consume precious time. I also like to think of it as a time budget. I try to prioritize the items I want to accomplish exactly the way I would prioritize my expenses.

  29. Bill Swan

    Just a thought but when I saw the part about choosing between the house repairs and the savings – I saw one big consideration you missed. Depending on the repairs you could increase your savings. Things like re-insulating the house, replacing the windows, adding plants that act as windbreaks or sunscreens and such all help in home repairs while adding to long-term savings.

  30. Living the Balanced Life

    This is a great concept Meagan. We as women try to take on more and more when in reality we should take a step back and see what could be removed from our lives to make it easier on us and more rewarding. We need to make sure we are doing things for the rights reasons, and not just because everyone else is.

  31. Katie @ Imperfect People

    Yes yes! i love this! I also wrote somthing similar inspired by Andy Stanleys,choosing to cheat. We can’t do it all so what do we cheat. Love it!

  32. Susan @

    Fantastic post.
    Last week I had a similarly-themed piece on a Christianity Today women’s blog called
    New Year’s Anti-Resolution: Stop Setting Goals
    Sometimes, less can be more when it comes to intentionality!

  33. Anne Samoilov

    The not to do list is my most important list lately. I take on so many new projects…or want to. Keeping my priorities clear is the only thing that helps me say no and keep my to do list short-ish. 🙂

    Great post! Thanks for such a sweet, simple reminder.

  34. Laura Vanderkam

    I have a bunch of resolutions, but resolved to only take on one a month. That way, it gets to be habit. Also, if I’m not doing something, I can let myself off the hook, because I know that’s a resolution for a different month. January is to lift weights regularly. Vegetables may make an appearance in February, but I’m not pushing them right now. I resolved not to take on regular kid activities or any volunteer projects right now at a particularly busy point in my life. There are some good ones, but now is not the time.

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