Saying No

I am addicted to to-do lists.

My love of to-do lists is a product of my perfectionist nature, which I’ve discussed ad nauseam on this blog already. It also stems from my tendency as an “upholder,” which, according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, basically means I’m motivated fairly equally from both internal and external forces.

So I love to-do lists, because they’re the self-afflicted manifestation of both internal and external motivators.

This morning, however, I came across an article on The Medium titled Why Everyone Should Have A ‘Stop Doing’ List. This little diddy caught my eye instantly:

Productivity is not about turning your schedule into a game of Tetris, cramming as much as humanly possible in your day and your life.

As a freelance artist who wears many hats—singer, producer, administrator, and, recently, publicist (weirdly enough)—I often catch myself “cramming as much as humanly possible” into my days. Today was a prime example: running errands for one side-hustle, working my day job from home, attending an online tutor training session, back to my day job, and then settling down to write this post.

You’ll notice that “singing” is nowhere to be found in that list of to-dos. Unfortunately, that’s not so uncommon for me.

Because I love crossing things off my to-do list, something so ambiguous as “practicing” often falls by the wayside, in lieu of more concrete tasks like “mail this package” or “write this blog post.”

By developing a “Stop Doing” list—simply reevaluating my day-to-day activities on a regular basis and determining whether they align with my goals and core values—I can reduce or cut out altogether those activities that are “energy drains” or do not have a high “return on investment.” (Side note: that return isn’t limited to strictly financial capital. An emotional and/or artistic return are often just as valuable.)

Realistically speaking, as a young artist living in NYC, of course I can’t completely cut out ALL of my to-dos that do not provide 100% artistic satisfaction. But by intentionally evaluating my activities on a regular basis, I can at least become more aware of the value of my to-do list—as well as the cost of maintaining it when it grows too long.

Tell me about a time you said “no” to something, because it did not have a high return on financial/emotional/artistic investment.