The Noble Art of Leaving Things Undone

Paul and I are [still] reading John C. Maxwell’s book, Today Matters, and what matters today is prioritization.

We Cannot Do Everything

There was a time in my life when I thought I could do everything, but I was very young, energetic, and naive. Chinese author and philosopher Lin Yutang said, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists of the elimination of nonessentials.” You can have anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want. You have to choose. Excellence comes from doing the right things right. You’ve got to let go of the rest.

This passage is perfect for a Monday morning, isn’t it? That’s when we feel the push of what didn’t get done over the weekend and the pull of what needs to be done before we get too deep into the week.

That push and pull can sometimes seem overwhelming, can’t it? It conjures an image of two opposing forces, yanking me around in opposite directions and leaving me feeling torn apart.

push and pull image

But what if I changed my attitude? What if I considered the push and pull effect as illustrated in this picture seen to the left? What if I could be the little kid in the middle with part of me pushing from the rear and part of me pulling from the front?! Then, all parts of me are headed in the right direction. I’d be doing the right things right, right? Right!

So here’s the thought that occurs to me as I read Maxwell’s words: when I feel like I can’t possibly get everything done, eliminate the waste, and allow the forces of push and pull to propel me in the right direction.

Reviewing this morning’s daunting to-do list, I can clearly separate everything into one of the following categories:

  • Need to do today (e.g. weekly team newsletter and pre-scheduled 3-way call)
  • Want to do today (e.g. family walk to the park)
  • Stuff I don’t want or need to do

While the first two are clear, the third category is a bit ambiguous, I know.  There are surely responsibilities we don’t want to do, but must; and others we don’t need to do, but enjoy. You, like me, might be very surprised to see how many items are neither necessary nor enjoyable, and those are the to-do list items that should be removed.

For example, we’ve been invited for brunch at a  friend’s house tomorrow and it was suggested that we bring a side dish. Usually, I’d enjoy conjuring up some kitchen concoction (with Beyond Organic foods, of course), but today, I just don’t feel like it. Our friends will be making our meal from scratch, I’m sure, which would typically mean I’d bring a homemade dish as well, but I don’t need to, and I’d rather have family time at the park, so off the list it goes. Tomorrow, we’ll pick up some fresh organic strawberries and mint leaves, dice some red onion, toss in a little balsamic vinegar, and voila! Healthy and fresh side dish done; obligation fulfilled with plenty of time for swinging at the park.

And while I might need to push myself to get the “must do” items done, I’ll use the pull of those “want to do” items to keep me motivated, and I’ll have plenty of time to accomplish them…all because I’ve practiced the noble art of leaving things undone.

About jenni smith

Jenni Smith is a recovering fast food addict and a reformed couch potato who swore she'd never be a distributor... until the day she realized the only thing holding her back from reaching her true potential was her own stubbornness. And maybe a bit of fear. When she finally decided to put on her "big girl pants", Jenni (and her rock star husband, Paul) went from founding distributor to top earner in two years, and is now a Youngevity Vice Chairman Marketing Director. With a 15-year career in marketing and two little girls at home, Jenni raises her kids and her family's income at the same time and is passionate about coaching anyone who has: A) a desire for better health; B) a need for better wealth; C) patience for sass.
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2 Responses to The Noble Art of Leaving Things Undone

  1. Pamela Schwarz says:

    This took a lot of effort on my part over the years in order to come to grips with it. Being a perfectionist by design, it’s hard to admit you can’t or Heaven forbid don’t want to do something. I now know that there is a tremendous freeing by supporting this philosophy — like a huge weight is lifted. I also find I do things much better in this kind of thoughtful timeframe. Thanks for reminding me. Pamela :o)

  2. Alan Nathans says:

    Glad you didn’t include writing ryh articles I. This. Lol

    Dr. Alan Nathans

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