Priorities & Projects: That Thing You’ve Been Meaning To Do? You Shouldn’t Do It

April 2, 2014
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We humans are a whimsical species and sometimes our eyes are bigger than our calendars.

It’s cute, really, the visions people have of making these gloriously elaborate and carefully constructed projects, like scrapbooks, baby books, and so on.

Last week I came across a beautiful leather bound thing, supple and soft and not a single page filled.

“Oh my god I’ve been meaning to fill that thing out forever! It’s such a gorgeous baby book, don’t you think?” My client asked, holding it up for me.

I agreed that as baby books go, it was quite lovely.

“I got this at my baby shower and I had such grand plans.”

I nodded and our thoughts both turned to her son’s age (just seven years past babydom).

“I could still do it?”

“Hmm. Maybe. How would that work?”

She stroked the cover.

“Okay fine, it goes.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Scrapbooking is always the same–lots of papers in various colors and patterns and stamps and doilies and whatever you use to scrapbook (I did have a scrapbooking birthday party once which went over quite well, but then I was six maybe) but not a single page scrapped.

“I always mean to get to that!”

Photo albums, likewise. I figure I’ve donated about a Michael’s inventory-sized amount of brand new albums to goodwill on behalf of my clients.

But really it’s any and every endeavor which you fully intend to commit to, and then never do. In comparison to your larger, more necessary, or more realistic goals, they are wishful thinking, extraneous, or a certain kind of well-intentioned delusional that I think is commonly referred to as “biting off more than you can do.” In a day. Or in an ever. Goals like: delivering homemade muffins to every neighbor on your block, learning to weave, teaching yourself the saxophone, and so on.

If that poor old sax has been sitting in a corner in your basement for the last two and half years collecting dust, it’s time to admit that you aren’t learning to play the saxophone.

If that wall has been partly demolished for the last seven months after a bout of overconfidence and a slight misjudgment of your DIY skills, it’s time to admit that you aren’t going to spontaneously learn demolition and construction, and hire a builder to finish the job instead.

If that photo album has been sitting on a shelf for the ten years waiting to be filled, it’s time to admit that you’re not trying to make a photo album, ditch the thing, and resolve to live in the present so that memory will trump pictures anyhow.

Whatever the side project or goal that your life is so obviously declaring is not a priority to you, move on from it.

You’ll be amazed at the relief you feel once you eliminate those things, very quietly nagging at you as they do, reminding you that even while you may be killing it in all other arenas, you’re still pretty much of a failure at making time to learn woodworking.

So, I want to know what the project or goal is for you, and I want to hear your resolution to break up with it.

Image credits: Image of Shalom Harlow, original source unknonw, Velvet Raptor, Martha Stewart, photography by Anna Williams
 

6 Comments

  1. Jean Kahler on April 2, 2014 at 7:11 am

    A buncha bunk! We need things/projects to look forward to – – not to be looked at as failures!I’ll be curious to see what others think.

    • Annie on April 2, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Hi Jean,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m afraid you missed the point of the article. Don’t let my use of the word “goals” here mislead you; I am referring here to things that you’re AREN’T looking forward to. In fact, you aren’t looking to them or planning to make time for them at all, so that as time passes, the physical remnants of said projects actually bum you out, not inspire you.
      It’s about knowing when to pull the plug on various projects that clearly aren’t true priorities for you so that you can be freed up–mentally and time-wise to focus on those things that you actually and immediately take action on, and that you are genuinely excited about pursuing NOW.

  2. David on April 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Jean, I think it’s more about being realistic than it is about killing off everything you’re looking forward to. It’s great to be excited about things if they are actually happening or reasonably might happen, but when seven years go by it’s time to admit that it’s never going to happen. If you don’t scrap it then, you’re deluding yourself, and that’s where things get problematic. “Failing” is one thing; failing and pretending you didn’t fail is an even bigger failure. Better to own it and move on.

  3. Nanette McKenney on April 2, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    It’s true! There is so much guilt associated with unfinished projects…it’s better to donate the materials to the goodwill. I need to pare down my yarn stash. I have more yarn then I will ever knit up in the next 5 years. I do knit, and complete projects often. But I have several failed projects that I need to ditch and move on from.

  4. Kaley on April 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I really love this. I have so many projects that I feel like I HAVE to do – what a freeing feeling to think that I should just ditch them all. I’m not sure if I can ditch the baby book (I am only 6 months behind!!) but there are a few others that I think I will let go of for sure.

  5. […] Tools and supplies relating to activities you haven’t done in ten years and have no intentions of taking back […]

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Annie Traurig was born with the ability to see order through clutter. As a child, she spent playdates organizing friends’ closets and packing their duffle bags for summer camp.

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6 Comments

  1. Jean Kahler on April 2, 2014 at 7:11 am

    A buncha bunk! We need things/projects to look forward to – – not to be looked at as failures!I’ll be curious to see what others think.

    • Annie on April 2, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Hi Jean,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m afraid you missed the point of the article. Don’t let my use of the word “goals” here mislead you; I am referring here to things that you’re AREN’T looking forward to. In fact, you aren’t looking to them or planning to make time for them at all, so that as time passes, the physical remnants of said projects actually bum you out, not inspire you.
      It’s about knowing when to pull the plug on various projects that clearly aren’t true priorities for you so that you can be freed up–mentally and time-wise to focus on those things that you actually and immediately take action on, and that you are genuinely excited about pursuing NOW.

  2. David on April 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Jean, I think it’s more about being realistic than it is about killing off everything you’re looking forward to. It’s great to be excited about things if they are actually happening or reasonably might happen, but when seven years go by it’s time to admit that it’s never going to happen. If you don’t scrap it then, you’re deluding yourself, and that’s where things get problematic. “Failing” is one thing; failing and pretending you didn’t fail is an even bigger failure. Better to own it and move on.

  3. Nanette McKenney on April 2, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    It’s true! There is so much guilt associated with unfinished projects…it’s better to donate the materials to the goodwill. I need to pare down my yarn stash. I have more yarn then I will ever knit up in the next 5 years. I do knit, and complete projects often. But I have several failed projects that I need to ditch and move on from.

  4. Kaley on April 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I really love this. I have so many projects that I feel like I HAVE to do – what a freeing feeling to think that I should just ditch them all. I’m not sure if I can ditch the baby book (I am only 6 months behind!!) but there are a few others that I think I will let go of for sure.

  5. […] Tools and supplies relating to activities you haven’t done in ten years and have no intentions of taking back […]

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