10 Things I’m Saying “No” to This Year

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Normally, when a new year rolls around, I have a list a mile long of things I’m saying YES to. You can check out some past ones here and here. Goals and resolutions are fun and have their place, but this year, I’m doing things a little differently.

I have a list of a few foundational habits I’ll work on mastering, with a plan to hold myself accountable each day (more on that, soon).

But, in part inspired by this article, I am making a list of things I’m NOT going to do in 2020.

I don’t know if you’re like this, but I am constantly thinking, very loudly. There’s an incessant, droning voice inside my head reading to me, digesting information, working through inter-personal problems, telling me what I should be doing. If I feed that voice too much, it’s chaos in my brain.

When I radically simplify life–schedule and space–my mental health improves.

When I have enough time away from ordinary routines to reset my brain and get out of my normal thinking patterns, I figure out solutions to problems. I’ve read that a “no” list can be as important to your mental health as a “yes” list, so during my time off, I decided to make my list of ten things I won’t be doing this year.

1-No News Feed

I deleted the Apple News app from my phone. When I’m bored, I won’t have it there to scroll through. I won’t know the latest, breaking stories as soon as they come in. But, amazingly, I’ve found that the most important stories always come through. Someone inevitably mentions the important news stories, and I’ll look them up. I get The Economist weekly emails. I’ll be informed, just not immediately so.

I actually deleted the News app months ago, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Eliminating this piece of noise from my life was a big win, and one I plan to continue in 2020.

2-No Podcasts

What’s wrong with you, you freak? Everybody listens to podcasts!

Podcasts are amazing, and definitely have a place in many people’s lives, just not mine, this year.

When I listen to podcasts, I find I get a lot of “you should” messaging. Frequently, people are interviewed who have just written a book, or done something cool. Their stories are interesting and inspirational, but too often, I find myself thinking, “you should do more with your life. You should write a book/climb Mount Everest/volunteer with Somali orphans.” That contributes to more noise upstairs. Podcasts aren’t helpful for me, personally, because of that crazy brain I have.

If I want to listen to something, I’ll download a digital book from the library.

3-No Social Media

I eliminated social media on my phone last Spring, and it has been a hugely positive change in my life. Yes, I do miss random strangers’ Instagram updates (I really do!) but it’s better for me to be off that platform, and Twitter, and Facebook, for the most part, because of afore-mentioned Comparison Brain. “You should have a business/have more followers/write more/do your hair that way,” she intones. As much as I rationally understand that my brain is feeding me a load of poop, emotionally it’s much harder to turn off the feelings of inadequacy or comparison.

Even when I visit Facebook, super infrequently, I find those same feelings cropping up. Or, worse, I find myself sucked in and ignoring people around me. Not worth it.

I know that I have to find a replacement for my habit to visit Facebook when I’m bored, so I’m working on that. Something semi-engaging but also sort-of boring after a while so I don’t get sucked in. Ideas?

4-No Perfection

Our back yard is a muddy mess because of Lucy. My living room furniture probably needs to be replaced. My car has dents. I infrequently wear makeup despite my aging face. My kids’ hair is too long.

I’m not perfect, and that’s ok. If I miss my self-imposed blogging deadlines, I miss them. If I have a run of not meeting my daily habits, so be it. I’m a work in progress and far from perfect. I’m allowing myself to focus on having better systems in place rather than trying to make everything look perfect this year.

I love her, but Lucy destroys our back yard. So be it.

5-No Complaining

I realized recently that I complain a lot. It’s not the best thing to realize about yourself, that you are a complainer, but I’ve noticed that if things don’t go exactly right, I end up voicing my opinion, loudly. And when do things go exactly right? So, this year, I am tracking my complaining each day.

What I’m mainly after is to raise my awareness and change the habit. I’ve already caught myself complaining several times, but the goal is to realize that I’m doing it and stop myself, replacing the complaint with a statement of something I’m grateful for.

I suspect there are resources or books out there to help with this, so if you know of any, please let me know!

6-No Meat

Ok, this is a bit of an exaggeration. I’m not planning to have a vegetarian year in 2020. But I’m definitely planning to decrease my family’s meat consumption and I’m tracking how many vegetarian meals we eat each day.

I read The Blue Zones Kitchen over break, a cookbook that brings recipes from each of the six “blue zones” around the world–regions where the average life expectancy is up to a decade longer than the regions immediately surrounding it–and the recipes are all vegetarian.

I have always had zero interest in becoming vegan, but the idea of eating less meat resonated, especially given the positive benefits to our planet. My problem is, when I think about what to cook my family, I always want to add meat to flavor the dish, and I don’t have a lot of great vegetarian recipes in my arsenal. Since I had a leisurely week to peruse the book and try the recipes, though, I’ve been working on making deliberately vegetarian main dishes for dinner, and keeping my usual lunch–salad with olives and chickpeas thrown in–vegetarian.

Apparently, in the Blue Zones, people eat meat, including fish, around 5 times per month. So, we’ve been eating lentils, beans and rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and vegetarian pot pie for dinner. I’ve been seasoning with lots of spices and more olive oil than I would normally use. Sometimes I throw some bacon in with the beans. It’s a work in progress. 🙂

Zero waste groceries--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
How can you say no to that beautiful vegetable bounty?

7-No Overscheduling

This one is not easy, given my propensity to add on one more thing. I was just asked to be a part of our church’s vacation bible school committee, and as much as I would love to help, I need to remember that the tradeoff is less time with my family, less energy, more stress, AND less frugality. This year is a transition year since it’s my first school year working full-time in twelve years (since Junior ThreeYear was born), so I need to be very careful about what we take on. Each boy still has one extra-curricular activity (although Junior ThreeYear goes three times per week to swimming) and this schedule is manageable, especially since we carpool with neighbors.

8-No Notifications

I took almost all notifications off my phone last Spring, even going a little too far, when I wasn’t getting notifications from the boys’ school and had no idea about all the activities we were missing. But deleting notifications has been very helpful to me, because I don’t see who just commented on my Facebook post, that there are only 4 more purses like the one I was looking at on eBay, that I have a new email I need to read.

Eliminating notifications means I’ve had to make a routine to check my emails, etc., during set times of day, but it’s virtually eliminated the constant “dings” and other interruptions from my phone (my phone is always on “Silent.” I do have an Apple Watch so if someone is calling, I feel a vibration on my wrist.

This system has helped me regain some of my sanity, and cognitive function. I highly recommend turning off most of your notifications on your phone, and seeing if your life doesn’t improve for the better.

9-No Goals

Whhhaaaat? I always have goals for the year. I’ve been dutifully reporting and posting on my progress for years. This year, though, I haven’t made the same goals sheet I have in years past. Why? Primarily, because I’ve met a lot of my major goals.

  • We’ve moved to my dream town.
  • I’ve got a job doing something I love, teaching Spanish.
  • We’re going to hit our mid-term financial goal sometime this year, most probably.
  • Mr. ThreeYear’s in a good place with his job.
  • The kids are doing well in school and activities.

Life is never perfect, and there are always problems and difficulties we have to navigate day-to-day. But for me, there just aren’t a lot of big goals I want to swing for this year. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on my daily habits–really focus on them–so I can get better at the foundational stuff. To that end, I’m tracking six habits for the entirety of the year.

I’ve got my trusty journal on my bedside table, and every night, I update how I did with my habits that day.

  1. Did I go to bed on time the night before?
  2. Did I get up on time?
  3. Did I exercise that day?
  4. Did I take Lucy on a walk/run after school?
  5. How many vegetarian meals did I eat?
  6. Did I use my Spanish checklist in the classroom?

Checklists are an effective way to make sure you’re doing something you’re supposed to be doing, so I created one for my classroom that contains all of the best practices I’d like to be doing for my professional development and for my students’ Spanish acquisition. It’s kept me on track.

10-No Money Shame

Mr. ThreeYear and I have worked really hard over the past decade to reach our money goals. We spend more than the average personal finance family–in some cases, a lot more–but we are saving a large percentage of our incomes, are reaching our financial goals, and have retirement in our vista.

farmers market www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Look at us, not succumbing to money shame.

So, I am working this year not to get so worked up over minor spending. Case in point, we had a little accident the other day when one of us backed into a family member’s car, and it cost $620 to repair.

It was an unexpected expense, and it was not fun to pay. But, in the scheme of things, it was a minor blip on our financial radar. So it wasn’t necessary to panic, berate, or fight. We are now at the point where we can brush these expenses off like a proverbial fly, due to our many years’ discipline with growing our incomes, saving, and paying off debt.

If Mr. ThreeYear wants to buy yet another carpet-cleaning machine, I will not shame him. If I want to take a tennis lesson, I will do it. As long as we are staying within our budget, relatively speaking, I am going to work really hard this year at giving us some leeway to enjoy our disposable incomes.

One of the reasons we can do this is because we save off the top. We max out our HSA accounts, our 401K and 403b accounts, and send our taxable and college savings directly to Vanguard each month. So, we can be confident that the money that is left over is okay for us to spend.

So, readers, what are you planning to do LESS of this year? I’d love to hear!

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

11 thoughts on “10 Things I’m Saying “No” to This Year”

  1. This is awesome, Laurie! It’s funny how I have done a somewhat-similar thing, although I use the social media for art biz, and set a few art goals for the year.

    Big thumbs up to the less meat! Hugs to you. Happy New Year.

    1. Thanks Nan and sorry I’m so slow to reply to your comment! 🙂 I love to see your art on FB so I’m glad that’s a goal. Happy New Year and hope we get to see each other more this year!

  2. Good for you! Due to financial constraints, our family usually only has meat once a week (we eat alot of pasta and pancakes☺️).
    I’m interested in many podcast topics, but it’s far easier/quicker for me to read a blog.

    1. I love your emphasis on less noise overall. Podcasts, news, social media, notifications -all of these contribute to the constant buzz in our minds. I think so many of us are uncomfortable with silence and with boredom, which is a real shame. I hope you can enjoy a quieter existence thanks to your choice to say no to these things! I am working on figuring out an effective way of using social media positively (for growing my freelance business) without wasting time there or becoming envious of others.

      1. Thanks! It’s definitely a work-in-progress. I agree-it’s tough balancing social media for business use with not getting sucked in in other ways. Good luck to you!

  3. This is inspiring me to make my own list! On the complaining bit though, do you ever think that if there’s something you’re chronically complaining about, maybe something needs to change? (Thinking about myself and my current job!) I do understand adopting a grateful attitude, but it’s hard to know where to draw the line. And on the social media, I’ve done the same thing – No Instagram on my phone! Deactivated Facebook! I’m experiencing these really cool mental throwbacks (both dreams and memories) to people I had completely forgotten about simply because they weren’t connected to me on social media. On the flip side, I’m dealing with feeling ignored because it seems communication has been largely replaced by social media, so my efforts to reach out tend to be unresponded to. Hmm..time to look for some new in-person friends maybe?

    1. Good question about the complaining. Probably? I find I’m in the habit of complaining about things that don’t really matter, though, sort-of in the spirit of gabbing with my colleagues. So for me, if I’m complaining about something that doesn’t really matter, I feel like I’m on the road to becoming a negative old grump! 🙂 It’s hard when your real-life friends don’t answer. I always tend to reach out to like 3 or 4 people at a time and not hear from anyone, then have an avalanche of people reaching out later on, when I’m not in the mood to talk! Haha. It is kind of fun to be able to go cultivate some new friendships based on your needs now. Maybe at a new club or, ironically, a FB group? Sometimes those have helped me find in-person friends really effectively!

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