But we must find time for the second of three ideas for making 2011 the most creative year possible. (Earlier, we looked at the first step in planning a creative year, defining a creative goal.)
Before reading on, you may help yourself to a two-page worksheet I've just developed to help you approach new creative challenges. I keep this worksheet for your free use at CarryForth.com.
Today: making time.
2. Make time.
Several years ago, I heard Jim Collins, the author of Good To Great and Built To Last, present on his research to a large audience in Cleveland. As an aside, he asked the group, “How many of you have a To Do List?” Nearly all 2,000 raised their hands. “Of course,” he said. “You are highly functional people, and you have a list of tasks you plan to accomplish.”
He quickly followed with what, for me, was a stunning question. “How many of you have a Stop Doing List? That is a list of activities, behaviors, or routine tasks that you fully intend to stop doing.” We can't, after all, continue to add new pursuits and experiences to our busy lives without retiring old pursuits.
My Stop Doing List
On my three-hour drive home, I assembled my Stop Doing List. It was easy to come up with four or five items that I could fully promise to stop doing. One of them for example, was Quicken. I had for years used this wonderful personal finance software to keep track of my spending and investing. It had been helpful: illuminating self-destructive mindlessness of the wallet. But was it worth continuing? No.
So I never again used Quicken for personal finance. (I do continue to use QuickBooks for business accounting.) And, in fact, I stopped balancing my checkbook all together. This might seem irresponsible. Indeed it is. But in 35 years as a banking customer, at several banks, no bank has ever made a mistake. So why spend 30 minutes a month in a futile, painstaking pursuit?
I do have a dim memory of a bank error. Back in the days before computers, when there was a truck fire in New Haven, a check of mine had reportedly gone up in flames during processing. It was for $50. Is that a reason to balance my checkbook for the rest of my life? (No.)
What's The Hardest Part?
I had to recognize that some of my current activities, practices to which I was devoting meaningful time, were no longer worthwhile. Humbled, I rationalized these habits: perhaps these behaviors were functional in the past — helping me grow to where I am — but are no longer the behaviors that will help me grow from here.
Stop Doing So Well List
Since hearing Dr. Collins encourage each of us to develop a Stop Doing List, I've come up with a companion list: Stop Doing So Well List.
The Stop Doing So Well List is a list of activities, behaviors, or routine tasks that you fully intend to stop doing so well. An example: a neighbor cuts her lawn diagonally — and then cuts it again at a 90° angle. The result is a beautiful pattern, like you might enjoy at Wrigley Field. I'm not the arbiter of her use of time, but she can surely choose to recover several hours each summer by not cutting her grass so well. (Moreover, I've found that I can cut my grass half as often as my neighbors — maybe twice, or even once, a month — and no one notices or cares. It stops growing and sort of flops over after a while.)
Starting Your List
What is on your Stop Doing List? What is on your Stop Doing So Well List?
If it's not placed on your Stop Doing List, surely watching television can fit on your Stop Doing So Well List. Most television watchers could choose to watch television less well. They could redefine "competence" as something other than watching others achieve.
Who Has Time?
Some years ago, I retired from teaching Sunday School. It had been a great experience and the students had been gracious and appreciative.
So were the parents. At a meeting of the synagogue education committee, a parent bemoaned that I was not going to teach her child the following year. She said, "We need someone like you who has the time to do this."
Excuse me? Someone "like [me] who has the time to do this"? Whatever does that mean?
I don't have any more time than anyone else. I just chose to invest some of it teaching children. And to make that choice, I chose to stop doing other things (and stop doing some things so well). Most people could do that.
It's an economic choice: the juggling of scarce resources.
Find time to make time. Make time to have a fully creative 2011.