The Kill List

Nearly a year ago now, I took myself off to Paris. I wanted to see the Eiffel tower, practise my French, and go for long walks in the crisp cold and contemplate.

Starting work again after a year as an international fuckwit of no fixed address, one thing on my mind a lot was time. At the start of my year of adventures, I’d felt this incredible feeling of time abundance. I felt like I could do everything I wanted to do, take every opportunity, catch every plane.

I was wrong.

I learned a lot in that year, but one lesson I took with me and still think about often is that even if you have complete control over your schedule, there are still a finite number of hours in the day. You would think that I could have learned that by looking at a calendar. And yet, I had not. It’s easy to think that if only you didn’t have to work that pesky full time job, you could do everything you imagine. I had proved – conclusively – that I (at least) could not.

You have to choose.

I had to make better choices.

There’s a category of unflattering requests, that I at least, have found easy to ignore and delete. People who misspell my name – it’s four letters, hit delete. Token women requests – negotiation practise. Bad requests for mentoring, I got more strict on. Corporate feminism – nope.

I started a new project this year. I killed something to make way for it, and I applied to it everything I knew about making projects sustainable. It’s been a successful project by any measure – the sustained execution, the achieving of the goals I had in mind for it, a random amazing surprises (including my current job). That thinking drove me to choose the chose the word “scale” for 2016 and create a text document called “The Kill List”.

At first I gleefully added things I killed or said no to, and then I stopped remembering to update it. I kept saying no though. About a month ago, I found it again and realised I had many more things to add. I killed the things I had finished learning from, and I said no to things that I didn’t think were the best use of my time.

As the year ends, I’m inclined to berate myself for all the things I didn’t achieve. But I look at that text document, and see a list of things that I stopped doing, or never started. And I’m grateful for the space I created, and the stress I saved myself. I’m glad that I made active choices to do, or not do, instead of drifting. I’m determined to keep doing that in 2017.

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