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Five Things to Stop Doing in 2012

January 1, 2012

Strategy consultant Dorie Clark wrote an intriguing post a couple weeks ago at Harvard Business Review blogs presenting somewhat of an anti-outlook for 2012.

Instead of promoting typical professional stretch goal-setting tips, she made suggestions for things to stop doing, in order to become more focused and productive in the New Year.

Her red lighted list of things to stop doing included such helpful recommendations as “Responding Like a Trained Monkey to emails” (#1), and “Reading Annoying Things” (#3) (like, this blog, for instance!).

Although making a Not-To-Do list can certainly help with productivity, I found these particular examples to be shallow, impersonal and, way too easy. For goodness sake, any dope can cancel a magazine subscription to reduce wasteful reading. The bigger challenge for us in 2012 is to make space in our souls for personal and spiritual growth, and that usually takes much harder work.

So, here is my own list of five things that I will stop doing in 2012:

1. Obsessing about my productivity every second of the day.  I have become so concerned with the optimal use of my time that I find myself rushing through activities rather than just being present and engaged with what I am doing at any given moment. Screw productivity. This year, I am going to limit expectations for what I can realistically get accomplished and enjoy more white space and freedom in what I am doing each moment.

 2. Viewing My Workplace as a Competitive Environment. I often write about the workplace as God’s fertile soil for lifting up and helping others achieve their greater good. But I confess there are always one or two situations that stoke me – and not in a good way. This usually leads to a quick descent into the psychotic realm of outdoing and smacking down and scheming to win, only to later find myself spiritually and emotionally exhausted – and with very little to show for it. I can’t go on like this. God’s spirit in me is bigger than any perceived antagonist, and I am committed to living out the paradoxical truth of love and humility as the ultimate winners in the workplace.

3. Being Overly Concerned About What Everyone Else Thinks About Me.  You would think by now I would have reached a stable, grounded and centered place of operating professionally. But no, I still fluster over my performance at times, wondering if I was good enough, impressive enough, and so on. But come on.  I can’t possibly be fooling anyone anymore. If my colleagues can’t accept me as I am at this point – the real me, an asymmetrical combo of both polish and foibles – then it’s already over. True character stems from being comfortable in one’s own skin, realistically aware of strong points and shortcomings, and not being overly concerned with pandering to others.

4. Thinking that Everyone Else but Me is Getting Ahead.  The over-sharing that goes on in the social media space makes us particularly vulnerable for getting tangled ideas about who’s gaining and who’s losing. It’s hard not to feel like we have to keep up with the visibility and self-promotion of everyone around us, because, well, if not, we will be left grounded in the dust of forgotten obsolescence. And there goes your dream of building an online platform! From now on, I will stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, and just take care of what I am supposed to do. Which is clearly not as much promoting and blogging and tweeting as everyone else.

5. Pretending I am the One in Control. I will acknowledge that I am helpless and that nothing is really under my control, as much as I would like to make it appear so. Surrendering to God is the only freedom I can ever hope for. That’s where the richest living will come from in 2012.

Now go ahead and make your own list of things to stop doing in 2012, before its over already. Or, you can borrow these. Like I said, they are harder than what’s on Dori’s list, but they might just change your life.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2012 7:26 pm

    cool picture
    happy new year.. greeting from Malaysia =)

  2. January 1, 2012 8:16 pm

    Now, who gets away with saying, “Screw productivity”?!

    Bring on more of that kind of thinking, Brad. I can imagine, as you do here, our world being so much better if more people adopted these five things to not do.

    Happy New Year!

    • January 2, 2012 2:00 pm

      You know, sometimes the over-enthusiasm with productivity ends up having the opposite affect. For me, some of that has to do with my juggling several projects aside from work. I want to cram too much into the day.

      Happy 2012 to you too, Maureen.

  3. January 1, 2012 9:04 pm

    My first thought was, “Why is it snowing on Brad’s blog?” Then I thought, “Wow. Does Brad have regrets? He seems to have it all together. Maybe I should read these. They might show me something I need to stop doing.”


    I left media platforms on the back burner this year as I burned through the books in seminary instead. Was it the right thing? Time will tell. I am actually considering whether I should stop blogging since a weekly post seems hardly worth the effort when my ability to visit other blogs is almost zero.

    I lost any illusions about being in control two years ago. (Although I don’t recommend my method of discovery)

    I am intensely focused on my productivity now, thinking I must use every minute. But I’m trying to balance it with regular times when I ignore the clock.

    However, I think I could benefit from making some deliberate choices about how much I pay attention to what others think. This is always a slippery slope for me. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between a healthy awareness of others and how I am affecting them, and something that goes too far in focusing on myself, my impact, my influence. I have someone who pushes my buttons in the workplace, too. But I don’t have to react to it.

    Thanks for sharing so honestly.

    • January 2, 2012 2:02 pm

      Thanks for your ponderings here, Cass. Obviously, there is a time for everything, and I would say being in grad school trumps many other life pursuits – for a period of time. Of course it will be worth it, especially if it is a passion of yours and you feel God’s calling on your life in this way.

      THanks for stopping by.

  4. Hania Whitfield permalink
    January 2, 2012 12:29 am

    One, four and five are for me. Particularly, no. 4 is one that hits me every timei open LinkedIn and see others’ updates. No.5 I eill post on my mirror. Thanks for the inspiration! And I agree these are better than hers.

  5. January 2, 2012 1:34 am

    “Screw productivity” – LOVE it. And your list. The best new year’s ‘resolutions’ I’ve seen yet, the most practical, the most personally helpful and the ones leading to the most balance and dare I say it, contentment in this life we lead. Thanks for this.

    • January 2, 2012 2:04 pm

      Ah, yes.. contentment. That is what we think we are shooting for. I love the quote I read recently that said we are most content when we can say we are happy without depending on anything for it. In other words, contentment comes from within, not from all the stuff we get done.

  6. January 2, 2012 11:15 am

    Frightening list only because they are five things that I should also focus on. I’d be curious to know how you schedule your blogging and commenting time.

    • January 2, 2012 2:06 pm

      Tammy, I get up a half-hour early and do most of my blog surfing and commenting then. The writing I do when I can scarf an hour here and there during the day, lunch hour, or weekends. It is actually one of the most enjoyable things I do, so always find some time here and there to squeeze it in.

  7. January 2, 2012 12:22 pm


    white space is a rainbow
    painted with light and rain
    every place we go
    it happens just the same
    held within
    this skin
    that feels strange on me
    i will always be
    home in Him

  8. January 2, 2012 1:37 pm

    Very nice lines, nancemarie! I also was struck by the part about “screw productivity,” wondering if anyone you work with reads this and will tell on you (o:

    I have a co-worker who seems pretty lazy to me at times, listening to music at his desk & checking out fun websites… but his approach seems to be to pick a big project or two and really give it his time and play with it and make something great and lasting come of it. I’m pretty good at whipping through lists and making a lot of reports lately… and that probably means it’s time to step back from that way of operating.

    Maybe productivity comes from a combination of both organization & speed, and unwinding and taking your time.

  9. January 2, 2012 6:43 pm

    I like this. I’ve had enough of the words “success” and “productivity” to last me a lifetime.

  10. January 2, 2012 7:47 pm

    Right on, Bradley! I so appreciated this! Especially what your main objective is: “The bigger challenge for us in 2012 is to make space in our souls for personal and spiritual growth.”

    Being in the moment and not focusing so much on productivity…now that sounds like living with purpose. And “purpose” isn’t always what we think it should be, or even what they think it should be (and thus why we shouldn’t spend our time focusing on what *they* think)…

    Nice! Way to go!

  11. January 3, 2012 12:43 am

    Oh the elusive ‘productivity’! Screwed into the ground and rotting, as we speak. I love this post! The one thing I have going for me is being comfortable in my own skin (the older you get, the easier it is – probably because anything that sags is always more comfortable). The one thing I would like to do is to be able to let go – family gets to me, a lot, and I need to learn how to let go, not of trying to please them, but of trying to share God with them, He will send someone into their lives that they will actually listen to…it is time for me to focus on the wonderful things He wants me to do. Your list is great! I pray that you are able to relax and enjoy 2012 in ways you could never imagine.

  12. January 3, 2012 9:12 am

    This is pretty great stuff. I think that we too often define ourselves – and believe that God defines us – by what we do. We stay at the grind wanting to make the most of every second in order to chase acceptance. When we realize we already have it in Christ, this is when we’re truly free to rest and relax. Yes, it spurs us on to love and work for his glory, but never to an unhealthy extent that ignores the relationship we have with him.
    Great stuff.

  13. January 3, 2012 12:45 pm

    Thinking that everyone else is getting ahead is a terribly insecure place to be. But it’s so true. I look at the success of a few people — like the girl who writes about goblins and sells a million e-books — and think that it should be me.

    Selfishness. Pride. Ego.

    Just be me. That’s enough.

  14. January 7, 2012 11:45 am

    I’m right beside you with number one. So much so that my word for 2012 is “be” (as opposed to “do”). My capacity for busyness is totally out of control.

    Which brings me to your number five, which also resonates deeply here.

    Thank you for inviting us to consider new ways that have profound impact instead of, say, a better organized laundry room or streamlined filing system.

  15. January 7, 2012 10:54 pm

    Pretending I’m the one in control, the richest living from surrender. Doesn’t that about take care of the first four?

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