My quit list!

Ok, before I get into today’s post, I am totally going to blow your minds. Hold on to your horses, tighten your belt buckles, and strap yourself in….I….am….in…two…places…at…ONCE!!

Can you believe it?!?!? I know…me either! Only in the blogosphere can a person be in two places at once.

So, you can hang out here, read my uberliciously wonderful post on my quit list, fire me off a comment (cause I know you are just dying to share your thoughts) and then head RIGHT ON over to my best blog buddy’s digs, Barbara McDowell to read a guest post (her first guest post I might add…eeekeee) by yours truly! That’s right. I am over there today talking about my experience venturing into writing fiction and how I use music to inspire greatness! FUN!!!

Let’s get to it.

Isn’t it remarkable how when you start to shift into a new realm, the universe sends you things to affirm your decision? Sometimes in the form of an expected conversation where you have an “aha” moments. Sometimes a commercial on TV that drives a point home. Or maybe in the form of fahbulous blog posts.

Most of you know that I’ve been making writing a bigger priority in my life for a while now. In July 2010, I started this blog as a way of bringing writing back into my life. For about a year, I posted on average once or twice a week (around 1000 words a week). Given that I hadn’t really written much in 10 years, this was a huge boost in creative writing productivity for me.

In October 2011, I stepped it up again. I took Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course and started posting 5 days a week (about 3000 words a week), another huge jump! I also joined ROW80 and embarked on plotting my first novel.

Each of these steps was instrumental in my saying to the universe that writing is a priority for me. And each has been wonderful and fantastic. I’ve been blown away by all I’ve accomplished and the writing movement that’s taken place within me. But as 2012 approached, I recognized that if I want to make fiction writing (writing outside of blogging) a priority, I was going to have to find a way to increase my productivity yet again.

That’s when the universe, in all its wisdom, sent me two blog posts that were exactly what I needed to hear. They were like a huge affirmation that I am on the right path and they provided me with the tools to move forward.

First, I came across Jane Friedman’s post on the Secret to Finding the Time to Write, Market, Promote, and Still Have a Life. In it, she outlined 5 key strategies to boosting productivity. She also pointed to another article by Clay Collins on Quitting Things and Flakiness: The #1 Productivity Anti-Hack.

The posts gave me great ideas I could implement to ramp up my writing productivity like hiring a cleaning person (hubby said he’s game) and stop watching so much TV. But for me, the biggest one was to let go of guilt and…more specifically unwanted commitments. This is the biggest struggle for me and it was like the universe was clearly sending me a message that it was time to start putting my passion first in my life.

Clay wrote in his post “Unwanted commitments seem to beget more unwanted commitments. They’re like lies: they multiply fast.

Hilarious and so utterly true. I feel like when I agree to one commitment that I’d rather not do, another one follows shortly after and because I did unwanted commitment 1, I somehow feel obligated to do unwanted commitment 2. To be “fair”!?!?! I don’t know.

Clay’s suggestion is de-simplification. Of course there are those tasks that I might rather not do but they are a real obligation. Then there are those task that the obligation is simply a matter of perspective. Clay points out that my biggest issue is probably that I haven’t been differentiating between very real non-negotiables and fictional non-negotiables. All too often I get wrapped up in the “should” of the moment.

  • I should go to that get-together.
  • I should sign-up for that committee.
  • I should attend that birthday party.
  • I should go to that event.
  • I should help this friend with that thing.

I need to start analyzing every request to ensure they are true non-negotiables or things I really want to do (over writing) before I say yes in order to start removing the unwanted things from my life. That means saying “no” more often. And it means likely disappointing a few people…and being ok with it!

So, for 2012 I’ve come up with a little “quit” list for myself:

  • Quit saying yes to an invite if your first instinct is to groan when it comes in.
  • Quit worrying how disappointed a person will be if you say no to their request. It doesn’t matter!
  • Quit blindly saying “yes” to all family event invitations. Evaluate which are most important to you and say yes to those…and no to the others.
  • Quit worrying about being a bad friend, bad daughter, bad aunt, bad employee, and overall bad person if you say no more often.
  • Quit worrying about losing friends/family. If they walk out on you because you are trying to live your best life, they weren’t really a friend to begin with.
  • If you feel like you “should” do something (but deep down don’t want to), say no out of principle alone.
  • Say “no” to requests more often. You can always change your mind after the fact if you realize it’s something you’d really like to do.

So far, so good. Last week I received a request to join a fundraising committee for an absolutely fantastic community event. I would have had a blast on the committee, it’s for a great cause, and it would have resulted in amazing networking for my career. It would have also meant a fair amount of evening and weekend time. I thought about it for a few days and responded declining the opportunity. I was very proud of myself. It was hard, but I did what I knew was right for me.

In the end, I know it’s not really about productivity. It’s about making sure that I am spending more time doing the things I love and living a more authentic and passionate life.

What’s your quit list for 2012? How do you make your passion a priority? How do you manage the “shoulds” in your life?

If you enjoyed this post, check out more blog deliciousness here:

  • Wonderful post by Elena Aitken on how we must respect ALL Mom’s; whether they are working moms or stay-at-home moms.
  • I read a poignant and touching post by Amber West that reminded me to stay focused and centered on the most important things in life.
  • August McLaughlin is kicking the new year off right by bringing us lifesaving resolutions and her fist installment on mindful driving hit the nail on the head with fantastic tips to stay alert when behind the wheel. Her second installment on dodging diets rocked and her third on laying off the toxic waste (like smoking) came out yesterday. Fantastic stuff!


  1. Love the prioritizing, Natalie! Yes it is okay to say no requests and events. I taught myself that a few years back and it was the best thing ever. I would wonder where all my time for writing went and realize it was lost to committee meetings after work, weekend engagements and even late nights writing things for other orgs–not myself. The guilt will pass.

    • LOVE that – the guilt shall pass! Thanks Barbara. It’s a real comfort to know others have been there and have learned how to master it better. I’m looking to get better at it each week. This weekend I didn’t do so well…but it’s coming!

      • Yep, it goes back to the idea of paying yourself first. If you want to save to buy something, you need to take that off the top and put it away. With writing time, it is so easily gone if we give it all away. We can give back to others in so many ways AND not lose ourselves and the work towards our goals in the process. What is that saying about how we each get the same 24 hours in the day? I’m learning so much from watching how other writers manage and make time for their writing.

        • I love that analogy Barbara! It’s about paying ourselves with our writing time FIRST! Then comes everyone else. That’s amazing and totally CLICKED for me. Thank you!!!
          I agree, I am learning sooo much by watching how and what other writers do.

  2. I love your list, Natalie. I read a book a couple of years ago that helped me tremendously to fight against the instincts to please everyone. I love it that you’re implementing these “QUITS.” You’re awesome, my friend.

    • Thank you so much Ali!! What book was that? I could definitely use the read. It’s tough when you’ve got such a habit ingrained of trying to please everyone. I’m determined to stick to my quit list. 🙂

  3. Love the quit list lol
    We see so many resolutions lists at the beginning of the year, but I had never seen any quit list! I might do something like that too!
    Great post!

  4. It’s not easy but this sort of prioritizing simply must be done when writing is your passion. As everyone says, you will get better at it and the guilt will be replaced by satisfaction at knowing you made the right decision. Your friends and family will understand and support you when they see how serious you are about this new direction in your life. All they have to do is read your blog to understand you ARE A WRITER! Carry on, dear friend … but promise not to turn me down when I finally get down east to your neck of the woods!

    • Sniffffff…thank you Patricia!!! You really know how to make a girl feel so supported and backed up! I love it!!! I couldn’t agree with you more that knowing I am doing what’s right for me will replace any guilt over time…and people will start to understand! 🙂
      I will ALWAYS make time for YOU to visit!!! 🙂

  5. Elena Aitken says:

    Great post, Natalie!
    I love this idea of the quit list! It’s SO important to do the things you need to do for you. I made the decision last year to ‘just say no’ and let me tell you, it was SO liberating AND very interesting at the same time.
    What you said about friends, “Quit worrying about losing friends/family. If they walk out on you because you are trying to live your best life, they weren’t really a friend to begin with.” Couldn’t be closer to the truth. I have definitely learned a few things along the way about friends, but the ones that stuck with me, aren’t the true keepers!
    You won’t regret this time putting you first. GO, Natalie!

    • Liberating – I think that’s the best word ever! Did you find it hard at first? I really struggle with saying no but I am determined to do more of that this year. If I don’t, the writing just won’t happen. Period. So it’s them or me. LOL!!
      It sounds like you’ve learned a lot about the people who matter most to you in your life. Sometimes little exercises like this can be painful in that sense but in the same respect, so healthy.
      Thank you Elena…for your support and your comment! Just what I needed to hear….

  6. Prioritizing is so important. I quit the last of my volunteer commitments last fall. A board commitment that meant something to me at the time I took it on but the organization evolved and changed and I hated going to the meetings. It was like pulling teeth for me. So after some procrastination (we all want others to like us and to seem professional and we like the others in the group) I handed in my notice. and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that it was done.

    now I need to quit reading blogs and do some writing.

    • That is A PERFECT example Louise – amen to you for quitting!!! I can often get ropped into similar things and I have to be sooo careful. Saying no will take a bit of work but I am determined. And knowing that y’all are learning and doing it to definitely helps!
      I hear ya on that. LOL!!!

  7. It’s interesting Natalie, since becoming a SAHM, saying no is a lot easier. I’m not sure if it was a priority shift on my part or if by being out of the loop knocked me off the radar or some combo of both. Gotta say, life is a lot easier.

    On the other hand hiring a clean lady type option is out, so maybe it is just a shift in non-negotiables 🙂 But you’ve inspired me to draw up a quit list. Great post.

    • I am thrilled to hear that the post inspired you to draw your list up Raelyn. Although it sounds like you’ve already made a ton of progress on that front…woot woot!!
      There’s something delightful about dropping off the radar and getting back to the basics and what’s important to you! You’ve definitely inspired me to do just that!

  8. I agree with everything you say, sista. I tend to stretch myself thin from time to time only to realize that the most important goals suffer.

    My tactic is to say, “let me check my calendar and get back to you”, when someone asks me to volunteer, or get involved in something that I suspect to be too much for me. This way I can make a right decision without being pressured on a spot.

    Now I’m off to Barbara’s blog 🙂

    • Angela – fantastic advice. I think the delayed tactic would help me really evaluate every request against my new priorities and help me make better decisions for me. Woot woot – here’s to that! 🙂

  9. Way to be a quiter, Natalie! lol I’m so bad about this, too! Good luck with your fiction!

  10. Saying no is super important and something I am working on, too. It is always the shoulds that get us. I am trying to focus more on needs and wants and forget the should all together. My step-mom, who is very wise, gave me a great saying to remember when I am saying no to people: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” It’s like you said, if someone is going to call friendship over because you said no, then they weren’t a real friend to begin with. They don’t matter. The hardest one for me might actually be giving up TV. I want to replace nightly tv time with reading time, but man House Hunters just calls to me. It’s gonna take some serious will power.

    • Love that!! OMG!!
      “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter!”
      I want that in needlepoint or in some motivational poster type thing. Doesn’t that just sum it up perfectly.
      I love how you are trying to forget “shoulds” all together. I couldn’t agree more. I find there is a connotation of guilt and negativity associated with the word. As in, I did or choose wrong. In the end, there’s no right or wrong – it’s all a matter of perspective and choice. I want to know that whatever I choose to do, whether it’s writing, hanging with friends, or having fun with hubby, I am exactly where I want to be with no regrets. I hate being at one place wishing I was somewhere else doing something else. So tired of it. If that means saying “no” more often, then so be it. Authentic living! 🙂
      I HEAR YOU on the TV and House Hunters!! I have a serious tube addiction that I’ve been battling. It’s hard!!

  11. LOVE this! Of course it’s easy to say we need to put ourselves first, but doing it is another story altogether! Good for you in recognizing that you need to say no (a super hard word to utter, I know) and for actually doing it! Sure, you’ll miss out on some opportunities, but who’s to say that by turning down one commitment you are allowing room for another one that is even better. It took me ages to get to this point in my life ~ now I’m like you, I’ll think about something and if it just doesn’t sound like it will bring me bliss, then I decline. I spent far too much of my time making other people’s lives easier while making myself miserable. The family commitments are the hardest, but I love what Barbara says, the guilt shall pass. I can’t wait for you to get your book done now! You have so much more time for the fun stuff. ; )

  12. Rocking it in two fab places simultaneously AND composing this fantastic post?? You’ve got serious talent, Natalie. Thanks for the lovely-licious shout out! (I can’t help but conjure words when I visit Life Out Loud…That’s how inspiring you are. ;))

    I’m a big fan of ridding the shoulds and shouldn’ts and guiding more with passion, smarts and instincts. Can’t wait to follow your progress and dance around in honor or your success!

  13. Learning to say “no” and “maybe another time” and “that’s never going to happen” is a tough practice to implement, but once you do, it makes life much easier. You feel better too because you aren’t compromising your personal likes/dislikes with meeting the unreasonable expectations of others.

    Of course I’m rather antisocial by nature. lol

    • Thanks Lesann! I know you are right that I’d feel a whole heck of a lot better!!! For sure and I can’t wait to put my new found “quit list” into action.
      I nearly spit out my water when I read “I’m rather antisocial by nature”! LOL!! OMG – that’s awesome! I could use a little antisocialness! LOL!!

  14. I completely think “should” must be outlawed from the Guide to Being Female. We do way too many things because of that nasty little word.

    My friend Laura Drake read something a few years back that I agree with, although I had to turn it over in my mind for about a year before I followed it: Writing must be in your top 4 priorities or you won’t get it done.

    I have Family, Writing, Friends, Work (which used to be ordered in an entirely different way). Once I let myself believe that writing, although fun, is another job that I go to, things started to move more smoothly.

    And I gave up television. Completely. Unless I’m watching passively a writing device of some sort or my daughter on my lap, I do NOT watch it.

    That was what I gave up for writing in 2011 and it worked so well, I’m keeping it going for 2012. Anything I need to watch later, I can get from Netflix or the internet. No TV gives me at least an extra writing hour every day – sometimes two. It’s AWESOME.

    • Meant to say: Unless I’m watching passively WITH a writing device… 🙂

    • I absolutely agree – we should totally BAN shoulds!! 🙂
      I like that – writing must be in your top 4 priorities to make sure it gets done. Wow! I’m really going to take time and think about because honestly, I don’t know my priorities in that fashion and I think that’d be super helpful! I think I know them but I would guess my actions don’t support my theory!
      TV – ugh! I am sooo amazed that you gave it up and can only imagine the time you got BACK. It’s a huge time waster. My writing time would double if not triple if I cut out the majority of TV. Gotta make it that priority!!!

  15. I love your quit list, Natalie! I don’t have a problem with saying ‘no’ to requests on my time. I have a problem with the online stuff. It was easy to eliminate the blogs I was reading that no longer offered me helpful inof. But the blogs of people I have come to know…that’s a different story. If we stop reading so many blogs to write more, the bloggers will stop reading ours. We’ll lose followers and friends. On the other hand, we are supposed to be developing a group of followers in our genre niche (not writers) so that we’ll have a community of readers who will buy our books and help promote us. It’s a conundrum. We tend to develop a huge network of writers as friends and supporters, but are we developing as large a network of readers and people who’ll buy our books and tell their friends about them? How can we quit reading the blogs of other writers that we’ve become friendly with?
    Reading and commenting on blogs is my most time-consuming task, even though I’ve eliminated some. I don’t want to stop supporting the bloggers I consider my friends. So, what do we do? I’m trying to cut back to reading and commenting once a week, but it’s not working so well.

    • You know my word for this one, Marcia: TRIBERR. It has saved me SO much time that I’m not getting as buried under the commenting as I was. Of course, we’ll see how it goes when I have everyone all lined up in there. 🙂

    • I soooo hear you Marcia!! It’s probably one of my biggest struggles as well. I haven’t mastered a solution yet because I think they are both important but how do we support our “friends” when our friends list has grown exponentially. I want to read, comment and promote EVERYONE because they are all sooo fabulous! But how?!?! And then on busy weeks?!?!
      We’ll have to try different things to see if one of us can’t figure out something that works…keep in touch!

  16. hello awesome! i need myself a quit list too! thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  17. Great post! It’s so easy to spread ourselves to thin by saying yes too much and by wanting to please everyone. I’d have to say my biggest issues are my feelings of not being good enough and being an overall disappointment to my parents. That’s something I need to quit.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Stacy, that’s a big one and it’s a hard nut to crack. I think knowing it’s there enables you to work away at quitting it! It’ll come in time…here’s to successful achieving our quit lists! 🙂

  18. I love the idea of a quit list! This is going to require some thought…

  19. This is soooooo helpful, Natalie. Feeling like a bad ____ is my absolute worst problem. I oughta …..

    *huge sigh* thanks for posting this.

  20. Great post!! I surely needed to read it! My quit list should likely be longer than it is but, I’m determined to start somewhere! Thank you for helping me get going on living my best life!

  21. Impeccable timing with this post, Natalie! I’ve been struggling with whether or not to go to an event this week when I’d really rather not. I felt guilty because I preferred to work on my writing priority than my day job profession. I just decided (15 min ago) not to go, though in truth my decision had more to do with my minor accident this weekend and being too bruised and sore to go…but your post reminds me I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. 😀

    • Awwww…timing is everything isn’t it. 🙂 Good for you for following your heart. I know it’s hard to say “no” when we feel the pressures of expectations upon us. NO guilt! That’s my 2012 motto! We shall make decisions and feel good about them.
      Oh my…I hope you are ok! Here’s to healing up soon! xox

  22. What a great post. I have become much better at saying no over the past couple of years. When I gave up mindless T.V. I really increased my writing time. I only watch the shows I truly love which amounts to about three or four and some of them are only a half an hour. I gave up General Hospital Natalie. Yes, I did. I know you’re a fan. It was hard to give up something I watched for years and years but I felt so good about the extra hour I was putting into my writing it wasn’t long before I didn’t miss it. Honest.

    • You. Gave. Up. GH?!?!?! LOL!!
      I know. If I gave it up, I am 100% positive I wouldn’t even miss it especially considering the time I’d get back. It’s so true. GREAT point Kate and I love how excited you are by what you gained instead. It inspires me. 🙂

  23. God job! I used to have such a hard time saying no.. I’d feel guilt if I DID say no, and then after I said yes, I’d resent the person and be mad at myself.
    These days, I am much better at saying no. I did have two jobs for the last year and a half, but I told my boss at the PT job, I had to quit. It was just too much and my writing is way more important to me these days than a few extra bucks.
    Great post, Natalie! I think I am going to do a “QUIT LIST” 🙂

    • I am the exact same Darlene. Say yes and then be pissed at the person and myself. In that case, we aren’t making anyone happy, are we?!?!
      WOOT WOOT on giving up the PT job – soooo impressed!!! I bet it felt great.
      I can’t WAIT to see your quit list! 🙂

  24. Awesome! Thanks for that. I have been debating all day if I should focus more on blogs, writing, and social networking or watch “Being Human” tonight. I feel more passionate about the former than the latter, and now I feel a great affirmation that I should go with what I am more passionate about. Now on to getting some laundry managed so I can hop over to your guest blog and see what you have to say about music and writing. 🙂

    • Sweet!!! I hope you enjoyed the social media fun Cassia (gorgeous name by the way)! Here’s to all of us finding ways to say “no” and spend more time focused on whatever we are passionate about.

  25. Wonderful post, Natalie! The “just say no” approach is something that I’ve been struggling with for years, but I think I am getting a little better with time. In high school and college, I took on way too much in terms of jobs and extracurricular commitments, and when I got to grad school, I fell into the trap of going to social events with people I didn’t like because I thought it was expected of me. It feels so good to know that these days, I spend my time and energy with the small group of people who really matter to me, and that I take on extra duties after a lot of thought.

    I’ll have to give some thought to what I would add on my Quit List — such a great idea!

    • Lena, you are an inspiration! You described my friendship experience to perfection! Hubby was just saying to me the other day that with my circle of friends, it’d be helpful if I identified who are close friends and who are more acquaintances. He said with that, I could start by saying “no” more often to my acquaintances. I was stunned. It was so simple…
      Exactly like you’ve done. Focus your energy on a small group of people that really matter to you. I’m going to definitely try that.
      Thanks for the fantastic comment and I look forward to hearing about your quit list. 🙂

  26. Sorry to be late to the party Natalie, but my hubby is still at the hospital, I just got home and thought I’d catch up on my emails and lo and behold there you were. And I think you stated your feelings diplomatically and with total justification. You’re so encouraging and by sharing this with others, it helps us know that we all deal with similiar feelings and can have the strength to handle them and get our life back. You’re a sweetie! Thanks girl! 🙂


  1. […] January instead of making a New Year’s resolution, I made a quit list. My quit list included a number of things I want to stop doing in order to become more productive […]

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