The ‘Stop Doing’ List: A New Way to Look at Resolutions

11 12 2009

I had it all planned out.

4 amazing part-time internships and 18 credit hours, all in one semester.  These jobs would give me the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best and brightest and gain the kind of experience that most students could only dream of.  I could do it – just 14 hours a day and 6 days a week of tightly scheduled classes, meetings, and study time.  I would make it work – just barely.

Well, a good friend invited me to read an article by author Jim Collins entitled Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List, in which he discusses the importance of worthy, sustainable priorities.  He suggests the following guideline in planning:

Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

And so now here I am, having to make some bold decisions about where my priorities lie.  This has forced me to make some uncomfortable choices and turn down a few opportunities.  But at the same time, I believe this will allow me to really focus on the remaining priorities and make an even greater difference than I could have being spread so thin.

So for the new year, if you find your plate a little full, rather than piling more on, consider where your priorities lie.  Drop the extraneous and give what’s remaining your full, undivided attention.


My Grand Project – Starting a Business

16 07 2009
This summer has been extremely busy for me – honestly I think I always bite off more than I can chew.  I get off of work at 6 every evening and then the rest of the time is torn between learning Spanish (my summer goal), cooking (my stress relieving hobby), studying sales (I can be a pushover and I’m trying to change that), writing this blog (quite time intensive), and also church activities.  So what do I do?  Take on another task – starting a business.

Last year I was reading a book by Cal Newport titled How to Win at College.  For this book, he interviewed some of the nation’s most successful students to find out what made them tick.  He then outlined their advice in his book.  The concept that was most influential to me was the idea of always having a grand project – a goal you work towards outside of the regular curriculum to cultivate your confidence and a can-do attitude.   He explained the concept of a grand project as follows:

Start Your Project - Be Invincible!

Start Your Project - Be Invincible!

“Your Grand Project should consist of a group of achievable, nonacademic accomplishments that, when combined, move you closer to an exciting aspiration.  Think big.  Be ambitious.  When you explain a Grand Project to someone it should elicit a response of “Wow!”  Working on such a project will keep you constantly excited and energetic.  It will keep the pressures of course work in perspective, and make it easy to brush aside the little bad occurrences that pop up now and then.  When you work on a highly ambitious project, you feel invincible, like you are a step ahead of the rest of the world, forging unique paths to great success.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t always succeed.  The novelty and thrill of taking chances is a powerful force.”

Ever since reading that, I’ve been in search of my own Grand Project.  I’ve had some crazy business ideas along the way (juice boxes marketed towards adults, an ‘organic’ lawn mowing business consisting of a flock of goats) and also some good ones too (what, you think I’d share those?).  Finally, I settled on something that met my criteria – it helps people, it is managable (along with school and another job), it has virtually no startup cost, and it has high earning potential.  What is it?  A cleaning business for students.

Now before you tell me this is the worst target audience ever for such a luxury service, hear me out.  Here in Provo, all the student apartment complexes have mandantory cleaning checks and they always seem to be at the worst time, like right before midterms or during finals.  If your apartment isn’t clean, you get slapped with a large fine.

And that’s where I come in – to save the day – to clean for you when you don’t have time.  Because, You’ve Got Better Things to Do™.

I’ll keep you up to date on how everything goes.  In the mean time, what is your grand project?  Is it a business?  Is it research?  Is it something artistic?  Really anything out of the box will do.  Try it out – start a project.  You’ll feel invincible as it begins to unfold.