Create a Stop Doing List

Raise your hand if you’re not perfect.

I know my hand is WAY up—is yours?

I try to save, but I overspend. I clean like crazy and feel like it’s not enough. I start my diet and exercise plan with resolve and then crash to a plate of brownies. Sometimes my friends or family members upset me and I don’t know how to handle it. Sometimes I argue with my husband and yell at my kids, and feel like I’m barely hanging on.

And I don’t think I’m alone. As women, most of us deal with the constant internal pressure of feeling like we’re failing in one way or another.

We tell ourselves all we need to be happy is a clean house free of clutter; an awesome and fulfilling career in a job we love; a balanced budget and plenty of money in the bank; kids who are happy, healthy, clean, smart, talented and smiling all the time; a loving & passionate relationship with a spouse that makes our heart skip a beat every day; an active social life with friends, family and loved ones who bring constant joy, and a deep spiritual connection that keeps us on the mountaintop all the time. Oh, and we also need to look fabulous in a swimsuit!

But the truth is that none of us can do it all. There are only 24 hours in the day, which means that in order to excel in one area of our life, another area will almost inevitably suffer, at least a little bit. And that’s okay. Balance doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly, it means giving yourself the grace to not be perfect.

And so I’m proposing that there are a few things we can and should stop doing immediately. Today.

Stop over apologizing. Don't apologize for everything - accept that you can't be perfect and learn from your mistakes

1. Over-apologizing

“I’m sorry I bumped into you.” (…when really you bumped into me.)

“I’m sorry I coughed.”

“I’m so sorry I’m bothering you.”

“I’m sorry, but I need to go to the bathroom.”

Seriously: we need to stop apologizing for everything! Not only is it perfectly inoffensive that we have real biological reactions like sneezing and having to go to the bathroom, but also, “sorry” becomes a habit, so we say it when we don’t actually mean it. At least “excuse me” or “pardon me” aren’t quite the tick that “sorry” becomes.

When we apologize for meaningless things, sometimes we lose the meaning in truly saying we’re sorry when we do something that’s actually hurtful. “Sorry” becomes a way to tell others we think they’re being a jerk. We’re trying to preempt their reaction by saying we’re sorry before they have a chance to say something we don’t like.

Instead of constantly saying “I’m sorry,” let’s try to replace it with “pardon me” or “excuse me.” Or, better yet, eliminate it altogether, except in cases when a sorry is truly necessary.

2. Comparing Yourself to Others

Between social media and everything we do online, it can be next to impossible to stop comparing ourselves to those around us. Of course we look at the friend on Instagram and see how amazing and together her family pictures look. We see her fabulous vacation and the amazing party she threw. We see our friends sharing their workouts on Facebook and talking about how fantastic their lives are.

It can be hard not to feel like we’re missing out or like we’re not measuring up to standards. However, when it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of people sharing their true struggles online. Yes, maybe there are a few Pinterest fail blogs (which are hilarious, by the way), but for the most part, our online personas are carefully cultivated to reflect the best of times.

We photograph the joys in our life and the moments we want others to see. We rarely show the moment our three-year-old decided to make a sandcastle in the cat’s litter box, or the time our six-year-old cut her sister’s hair. (Okay, maybe after we’ve calmed down and can laugh about it, but not in the moment.)

Sometimes it’s okay to step away from social media for a while, particularly if it’s making you feel bad about yourself. Take a break to live in the real world where we’re all imperfect.

Stop shopping the "best sales." A good sale is hard to pass up but you don't have to score at every sale. Your budget will thank you!

3. Buying “Good Deals”

When you find a great deal at the store, do you jump all over it? Many of us do. It can be very hard to pass up a BOGO deal or a double coupon opportunity, especially when you know you might need it in the future.

Here’s the deal, though: more often than not, we end up buying too much. We buy more than we need or can feasibly use up or store because it’s such a “good deal.” We’re not actually saving money when we have a closet full of cheap clothes we never wear or a cupboard full of food that will expire before we can eat it. Even though we think we’re saving money, we’re still spending.

The next time you get a hankering to walk to the back of the clearance aisle at the store, ask yourself if there’s anything you need on your list that might actually be on that aisle. If it’s not on your list, don’t go there. (Yes, even if it’s 70% off and you have a coupon!) For example, if I’m at the store for cereal, batteries and masking tape, I’m going to promise myself I won’t even look at the makeup clearance section or browse the candle aisle.

4. Feeling Guilty for Self-Care

As a mom, it can be hard to practice self-care. We might try to fit in gym time or even a few extra minutes to do our hair and makeup. Maybe you have a novel you’re dying to read for a few hours, but you know you can’t afford to take the time.

So, what do we do instead? When we have a few extra minutes, we surf the web or procrastinate or spend time doing “busywork” under the guise of productivity. …well, I know I do. But when I do, I realize I’m not really allowing myself to have downtime…downtime that is so nourishing, refreshing, and necessary. I’d be far better off if I took the time for myself, embraced it, enjoyed it and made the most of it.

Self-care gives us a chance to keep ourselves feeling energized and refreshed. It helps us look and feel our best. You know how wonderful you feel when you’re dressed up, looking good and feeling fantastic? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m ready to tackle the world.

I know it can be hard, but try to find time to treat yourself each day with a little gift—a piece of chocolate, a bath, reading a magazine, or a few chapters of your book. Be mindful about your activity and look at it as something special you’re giving to yourself. You deserve it!

Don't beat yourself up over the numbers on the scale. Love yourself, take care of yourself, and be healthy!

5. Beating Yourself Up over Your Diet

Feeling guilty about your diet is a tale as old as women’s magazines. For years and years, we’ve been trying to “reduce,” lose weight, and shrink ourselves to fit into smaller clothing sizes. What happens? We do it for a while, and we’re miserable as we pick through a salad or eat carrot sticks. We feel like we’re punishing ourselves, so then when we crack and finally eat that bowl of ice cream, we feel guilty and like we’ve failed.

Most guidelines suggest a healthier approach is to look at our eating habits as part of a lifestyle, rather than a diet. A diet implies a set amount of time, whereas changing our eating habits is just something we do to feel better and have healthier bodies. Start looking at food as a way to nourish and strengthen your body and give you energy. Drink water, move more, and let go of the guilt.

If you eat something not-so-healthy, enjoy it! Tell yourself how amazing it was—and move on. Rest assured you can have cheesecake or pizza or whatever it is again, but just not all the time. Enjoy food and learn to love healthy vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins. Base your meals around these healthy things and allow yourself some treats along the way.

6. Saying, “It’s Okay” When it’s Not

Similar to saying we’re sorry too often, we also often say things are okay when they really aren’t. You don’t have to be rude about something that’s bothering you, but you can certainly express it and stop holding it in.

When a friend lets you down or someone has upset you, tell him or her what’s bothering you. Listen to their side as well and see if you can come to a resolution. You may be surprised to find out they’re experiencing a challenge, too. Or perhaps they weren’t even aware of the effect their thoughtlessness was having on you. Sometimes getting it out in the open is all you need to do to resolve it.

If there’s something you’ve done wrong, take ownership of it and apologize. Tell your friend you’re sorry for what you did that hurt their feelings or upset them, and work to make amends. Just ignoring problems or saying “it’s okay” all the time won’t make them go away.

Asking for help is okay! From doing the dishes to needing someone to talk to - you can't do it all on your own.

7. Doing It All on Your Own

How many of us feel comfortable asking for help?

Most of us would prefer to be able to do everything on our own. We all want to be superwomen…but when we’re hurting or overwhelmed, we need to give others the opportunity to help us in our time of need.

Think of how great you feel when you can help someone out who truly needs a hand. Yet, when we need a hand, we feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for some assistance. It can be as simple as asking a neighbor to help you exchange a babysitting day or a meal swap, or it can mean asking your kids to take on some chores or your husband to help out more.

Even though we’d all like to do things on our own, it’s not realistic to expect we can do it all. Give yourself a break and ask for a little help when you need it!

8. Giving All Your Time Away

Learn to say no. Trust me, I know it can be a challenge. We want to help everyone as much as possible. We want to join the PTA, be a Den Mother, and run the church bake sale. We want to help in every way we can.

Unfortunately, when we give all of our time to others, we can take it away from our families, our marriages and from running our own homes. Don’t feel like you have to give all of your time away every time you have a spare minute.

Learn how to decline some events and to maintain a balance when it comes to keeping up with activities. It’s okay to not do every single lesson, every activity and every invitation. You can pick and choose and spend some time at home with your family.

Part of maintaining that balance is keeping your schedule organized. How many times have you felt like you’ve lost hours simply because you were procrastinating or avoiding the things you didn’t want to face? Instead, try using a planner or organizer so you can schedule in your time and keep a handle on your goals and plans for the day.

Worried about cleaning? Everyone is - but don't hold yourself or your home to an impossible standard. Imperfect is okay!

9. Worrying About Cleaning

Aside from the few basic household chores we typically do daily or weekly…everything else? Give yourself permission to pace yourself and tackle cleaning projects over time. So often we’re haunted by the closet we need to organize, the fridge that needs to be deep cleaned, or the bedroom that’s less-than-perfect—when we’re the only ones truly bothered by it!

While being organized helps us to be more efficient and gives us a sense of calm and order, we don’t need to have every single thing perfectly in place. It takes time to get everything in order, and most of us hit roadblocks and have good weeks and bad weeks.

10. Getting to the End of Your List

I’ll admit, if I don’t make it to the end of my daily to-do list, I have to purposefully remind myself I don’t need to feel anxious. The amazing thing is, most of those items will roll right over to the next day without consequence. If I tackle the big items (“eat the frog,” so to speak), the other items are usually not as vital.

So I didn’t make it to the post office today. I can go first thing tomorrow. I didn’t wrap the gift for Saturday’s party. Well, it’s only Tuesday and there will still be time. It’s good to not get stuck in procrastination mode and to make the most of your calendar, but it’s also important to allow yourself some wiggle room.

After all, what happens when our kids beg us to come play a game with them outside or read them an extra bedtime story? Aren’t those the moments we’d rather have some extra time for?

It’s not easy to admit–to ourselves or anyone else–that we can’t always do it all. But the reality is that balance in life is found from taking things off our plate, not putting on more pressure to be all things to all people. Get clear about what matters to YOU most of all, then give yourself permission to let a few things slide. It will be okay–I promise.

Ever feel like you just can't keep up? The truth is that you don't have to do it all! Here's how to create a stop doing list with 10 things you can take off your plate TODAY!

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  1. On my to-stop-doing-list is definitely feeling guilty about me-time. I need it, if I don’t take time to care for myself in the end I will be a anxious mess because I didn’t take time to rewind.
    So what will be gone from my list? Feeling guilty that I need something.

  2. Love the part about what every woman wants. It made me smile because it is my exact list! I like to spent time with my daughters more and don’t have active social profiles because of everyone seem perfect in there.

  3. I’ve already raised my family and I thought my to do list would shrink, but it didn’t. One day I removed the list and decided to replace it with a routine. I’m working on not letting other people put me on a guilt trip for the decisions I make. There’s a post for you – GUILT – it’s an awful thing. Finally the biggy is treating myself to something good and making it a priority. Currently this includes reading more, watching a Christmas Hallmark movie some evenings and enjoying a slice of cheesecake every once in awhile. Most important I’m remembering to say thank you for all the blessing God has shined upon me. Great Post!!

  4. I am going to stop saying “I don’t care” when I really do….and then resenting it……I do have an o opinion and I do value my opinion!

  5. I felt like a failure when I hired a cleaning service. But when I am done working, I would rather spend time with my kids and NOT spend all day Saturday cleaning the house, like we did when I was little. We all have daily chores, but I won’t get this precious time with them again–so why not spend it having fun instead of cleaning? (And the cleaning service ladies are better cleaners than I ever was, LOL.)

  6. I am one of thoes who hates leaving the house. I am not weird about it I just hate to have to go and do something… I go out for church and ladies group. However if I need something frome the store I send the hubby.. He is so good about that. I go out to get groceries twice a month with hubby and stay at home son. That is it. I fuss around the yard in the spring and summer. I am much better at saying no. I do not compare my self to others. I am getting better about these things. However I am nearly 60 years old. I do need to be better ab out keeping up my house, I do schedual time to knit and craft… I really have a pretty good life. SO why do I want more! I know I can be more than just these things. I want to THRIVE not just have an OK life. We can do it, all of us can have the best life possible. We just have to change some things. Therefore Here we go!

  7. All of these resonate with me or some I know very well. Thank you for this well written list of ideas for the new year. And yes, just trying a few us acceptable.

  8. What an awesome idea! I love it and plan on making my own Stop Doing, list, although 8 out of 10 on your list will find it’s way onto mine. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. One of the hardest things to do is to say “No”. I hate the feeling of letting other people down. The choir at my church was getting ready to change the practice time to accommodate me, and after thinking over joining, I decided I just could not handle one more obligation. I told the pastor I could not join and that they could go back to their original practice time. It was really hard, but I was proud of sticking up for myself – much better than accepting and missing half the practices or complaining about the lack of personal time.

  10. This is so helpful! The one that hits home for me is stop saying you’re sorry. I used to be guilty of this (and I know a lot of other women who are, too), but once I started focusing on it, I was able to stop the pattern and only say sorry when I’m genuinely sorry.

  11. I love this list. I am very guilty of saying “I’m sorry” for every little thing. It drives me crazy, and I know it sounds ridiculous. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m clumsy and can’t walk in a straight line. I am working on getting better about not feeling bad about all the things I have on my to-do list that does not get accomplished, especially projects. I’m focusing on enjoying my girls, my husband, and my life without feeling guilty. Thank you for your encouragement and showing women and mothers that it’s ok to say no and not have it all together.

  12. My Kids are grown and my husband passed away 4 years ago. I am very good to myself. I have started traveling and if I can afford it, I buy myself what I need, not everything I want. But at this stage of life, less is more. I keep my nails and hair done because this is important to me, go out to dinner at least once a week. I do not sit home and feel sorry for myself, that is one thing I promised I would not do. I am at peace. Be good to yourself in whatever way you can, you are worth it.

  13. Yes! I’m so guilty of the never-ending to do list. Like, let’s celebrate crossing everything off my list by adding more things to the list! Just be done, and savor the feeling of a well crossed of list. 😀

    1. I am a mother of 2, a housewife, and my father in law is retired and lives with us. Even though my kids are in school, they are still actively involved in stuff. I very much enjoy being a 4-H advisor and a co-leader for Girl Scouts, but I find myself also unable to tell family and friends no that I cannot help or accomodate them. I am horrible at this and hope that I can fix this.

  14. I really enjoyed this article. As a mother, I struggle with completing my daily to-do list and also giving the kids all of the attention they deserve. Sometimes I throw my list away or tuck it in a drawer when my husband is on his way home. I fear that if he sees what I haven’t crossed off he’ll try to help me get the rest complete rather than enjoying his evening.

  15. Maintaining balance is so important! My to do list never seems to get done, I like to think of it more of a reminder list. Some of this things on my list take an embarrassingly long time to get done (months), like my name change from recently getting married and making an appointment to get my car recall item fixed. I try not to stress about it, it will all eventually get done 🙂

  16. A friend and veteran mother gave me a good idea: Instead of a to-do list, keep a did-do list. “Today I changed 6 diapers, broke up 8 fights, cooked, served and cleaned up three meals, cared for three owiees….. ” It’s sometimes amazing how much has been done just getting through the regular stuff, even if the to-do list is still untouched. I don’t do it often, but when I have a day I especially feel like a failure, it helps me keep things in perspective.

  17. I feel like the cleaning one really resonates with me. I have been feeling like lately I need to be deep cleaning our entire home to make it people ready all the time. As freelancing began to take up more and more of my day, I realized I don’t really have the time to deep clean right now and that’s okay. A stop doing list is just as important as a to do list in my opinion.

  18. Wow…my buddy just shared this list with me and I’m feeling a little ashamed/guilty at how many topics resonate with me. But I guess that’s why #4 is on the list! So I’m not sorry about it and it’s time to apply these to everyday life! Thanks!

  19. I come back to this post over and over again when I need a reminder (like today). Too often I find myself trying to do ALL the things and too often I find that I accomplish about half of what I set out to accomplish because I waste more time stressing about everything I can’t get done. I’ve been using the 12-Week Year and that has made a huge impact for me because I am only doing the important things – not ALL the things. 1 big thing I still need to work on is asking for help without feeling like I am failing. The other is action over perfection – I worry that everything has to be perfect or it’s not good enough. Recently I have been challenging those limiting beliefs and it is liberating. Thanks for the reminders that it’s all going to be okay if we don’t do ALL the things ALL the time. 😉

  20. I also use the list creation method when I understand that something doesn’t work out in my life. You write out everything you think, then more new thoughts appear, then you re-read and find the answers you need. I also started creating lists of favorite things in my life (films, music, etc.), a small hobby.

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