Most entrepreneurs have so many things on their to-do lists, it’s literally impossible to tackle them all. That doesn’t stop us from trying -- but it’s often a futile quest that leads to disappointment and burnout. The better alternative is to consciously evaluate your commitments and identify things you can cut out. When you stop doing something that’s less useful or productive, it opens up your calendar -- and your mind -- to be able to jump on new opportunities and fulfill your existing commitments to the best of your ability.
Here are five things you can consider deleting from your daily routine that will make you saner, more productive and more efficient.
1. Commuting. Studies have shown that commuting is one of the biggest killjoys in modern human life. As an entrepreneur, you have a level of control that most employees don’t. Consider getting rid of your office and working from home. And if you have employees, take a page from Jason Fried (author of Remote: Office Not Required) and encourage telecommuting among your entire staff. That extra hour per day can add up quickly in terms of overall life satisfaction.
2. Saying yes. It’s natural to want to please peopl, and saying “yes” to every request will certainly make them happy -- at first. But when you fail to deliver because you're overwhelmed or you find yourself angry and resentful because you’ve agreed to something onerous and unpleasant, the problem with always saying yes becomes clear. It can be hard to turn someone down and risk disappointing them to their face. But it’s far better to be upfront about what you’re willing and capable of doing, so that when you make a promise everyone knows you’ll deliver with gusto.
3. Maintaining relationships that drain you. We all know that overtly negative relationships should probably be terminated. No one needs a “frenemy” who’s constantly sniping at you or making passive aggressive remarks. But your time is precious, so you should raise the bar even further. If a relationship -- personal or professional -- is only neutral and doesn’t actively contribute to your satisfaction and well-being, think about jettisoning it.
One colleague told me about ending a romantic relationship that had become lackluster. “In the three days since [the breakup], I have been so much more productive, it's not even funny,” he said. “The relationship just made it hard to enter the prolonged flow states I need to produce and create.” A strong relationship can inspire you to greater heights but a negative or neutral one often zaps the creative energy you need.
4. Worrying about things you can’t control. Reinhold Niebuhr had it right. The famed theologian’s “Serenity Prayer” asks for the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen to that. Worrying about things we do have the power to control ("Should I be making more sales calls?") can lead to productive changes. But fretting about things beyond your control -- like the state of the national economy -- won’t do any good, because there’s no way you can impact it. Note your concern, and then move on.
5. Thinking there’s only one way. We often have a vision in our minds of the perfect life. We’ll get married at [insert your ideal age], have kids X years later, make X amount of money and live in X neighborhood. It’s great to set goals, but it’s torturous to insist on them. Sometimes, real life gets in the way (you can’t afford X neighborhood) -- and sometimes it offers you something even better that you couldn’t have predicted.
One friend told me about abandoning her insistence that she had to live and work in the city. Instead, she found a cheaper place an hour north and realized it’s “friendly, less hectic and a higher quality of life." Sometimes opening up to possibilities can enhance your experience and reduce your stress.
The universe is going to keep piling more obligations and responsibilities onto us -- unless we take stock periodically and start saying no. Stopping certain activities allows us to focus more on what truly matters and enhance our overall results.