“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” ~ Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson

And I believe it is true for people as well.  In this graduation season many graduates  face the next step in their lives with uncertainty.  If they have not already committed to a job or further education, the possibilities seem endless and it is overwhelming to think about the choices.  This is one of the times when thinking in the negative is helpful.  To eliminate the things one knows for sure are not options is the first step in  the narrowing process.  Each of us can use this technique to help refine our decision-making.

My home and the nine acres surrounding it always have a list of things that need doing that would strike fear in the heart of my former suburban self.  On any given day, it is easier to start with deciding what not to do.  Mother Nature is the guiding force more often than not in the process of elimination.  Choosing a task compatible with the weather often cuts the outdoor list in half.  The wear and tear on my less than youthful body is another consideration.  If the day before was extremely physical, I immediately set aside heavy work projects the following day.

Deciding what not to do falls into two categories, what not to do right now, and what will never be done.  Just because the option presents itself does not mean that it is worthy of further consideration.  Allowing oneself to toss out the unworthy and unworkable, clears out the mental clutter a bit.  If it is simply a question of not doing it right now, assigning the task a priority ranking and placing any related items that must happen first in front, the action list begins to emerge.  Use this for anything from making large life choices to planning the spring yard cleanup, the idea and process is the same.

The point is to refine one’s focus to a manageable list of options and be able to weigh the relative value of the particular choice.  Thinking of our lives as a product development project allows us to step back and to leave behind consideration of options that do nothing to further that development.  When faced with open-ended questions, starting with what not to do can in fact point us directly at the answer of what to do.

Order from Chaos

As part of a larger personal project I found myself tackling the garage yesterday.  No small task as the weather conditions needed to be such that I could pull out all three vehicles; the truck, SUV and ATV/snowplow and leave them out all day while I regained some order.  Once I had a fire in the wood stove to warm it up a bit, the cold garage being another deterrent to this project, I began the process of primarily just putting things away as most of them have a permanent location. All of the storage and shelves were inaccessible when the garage is crammed with vehicles and I had started stacking items near the door.  Once order was restored and the garage swept, things I discovered:

  • I have projects in progress that had been forgotten
  • With a little reorganization I can put most things away when the vehicles are in the garage
  • There are packing materials that belong in a distant storage shed, that for the moment is impossible to get to due to the snow
  • That the garage does get nice and warm with the stove going
  • A warm garage motivates me to work on the projects in progress
  • I love the satisfaction of putting things in order

Another sunny day – this one will be in part for errands that take me out of the house and I will see other humans – yea!