Saying No in The New Year

The dawn of the New Year marks a time to look ahead and dream about the future. Often involved are making resolutions and setting goals. I once encountered some advice on this topic that has stayed with me through the years. Initially, I didn’t fully grasp it, but its meaning has deepened over time. The advice? It is more important to think about what you’ll stop doing rather than what you’ll start.

Ultimately, setting goals is an attempt to budget our most valuable resource: time. What we spend our time on, and thus our attention, determines how we live our lives. When we say yes to one thing, we also say no to hundreds of other things at the same time. And there is only room for so many yeses.

Resolutions and goals are often only about saying yes. What are the things we want to start doing in the New Year that we aren’t doing already? Missing from the equation are the things we will say no to in order to make room for the new yeses.

Consider Dieter Rams’ famous dictum: less but better. Saying no to the unessential frees us to focus our time and attention on what is most important. Thus, we do what is most important better, because there is less to distract us from it.

This concept lies at the heart of A Simple Frame – a name inspired by Jim Collins’ excellent article Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List:

Looking back, I now see Rochelle Myers as one of the few people I’ve known to lead a great life, while doing truly great work. This stemmed largely from her remarkable simplicity. A simple home. A simple schedule. A simple frame for her work.

Collins’ article is the best articulation of the idea of saying no in the New Year. Do yourself a favor – read it.

Ask yourself these questions: What does simplicity look like in your life? What is unessential that can be cut away? What is the best use of your time and attention?

This New Year, what will you stop doing in order to reach your goals?