The Quit List: Spark Yourself Some Joy by Pruning ALL of Life

Thanks to her trendy Netflix show and popular book, Marie Kondo has everyone giving minimalism a try and following the 'KonMari' method of keeping only the belongings that 'spark joy'.

Minimalism, though, is arguably just an offshoot of essentialism.

Adding to life by...subtracting??

Essentialism is one of the founding documents of Struggleism. In it, Greg McKeown talks about how, in the same way we're reluctant to get rid of our non-essential physical goods (i.e., those that don't spark joy), we're bad at eliminating non-essential commitments we've made. He says there are three tendencies at play deep inside our thought processes:

  • Sunk cost fallacy: we keep investing in X because we've already put so much into X

  • Endowment effect: we value X more if X is ours or if X is part of our self-identity

  • Status quo bias: we keep doing X because, well, X is what we've been doing

Also, I'd add, FOMO.

But to accomplish your personal vision, to achieve whatever you want most, you may need to quit the other commitments competing for your time, energy, money, and attention.

Like master gardeners, we must prune and curate our lives. While this often means dropping the trivial and unimportant, it sometimes means quitting even the very good for the sake of the highest good.

Greg says this type of life-editing has to become a way of life, and it helps to have a system. Others seem to agree. For example, Bob Goff quits something every Thursday. One's system doesn't have to be complicated.

I imagine there are some Thursdays when ol' Bob is not immediately sure what he should quit, or even what he could quit. Maybe nothing's top-of-mind so he has to brainstorm some candidates. On those Thursdays, to kickstart the brainstorm and trigger ideas, he might benefit from a list of the many different kinds of commitments one might consider quitting.

Perhaps you'd benefit too.

The Quit List

Consider quitting any of these types of commitments:


example: Dropbox

example: Netflix

actions, including recurring

example: oiling your boots

example: using the dryer


example: smoking

example: shopping

amusements, i.e., time-fillers

example: Candy Crush

example: Youtube videos

backburner items, i.e., 'someday/maybe' projects

example: learn Spanish

example: write that book

basic needs

example: food (i.e., temporary or intermittent fasting)

example: sex (i.e., you can practice temporary or indefinite abstinence)


example: I'm a loser

example: the earth is flat


example: comparing yourself to others

example: waiting until the last minute


example: the shirt you haven't worn in a year

example: the books you keep because they look impressive on your bookshelf

calendar items, including recurring items

example: 'touch base on [project Y]'

example: bi-weekly team meeting


example: 4-H

example: the country club


example: so-and-so's band's record release

example: Aunt Karen's birthday party


example: win the presidency

example: gain 20 lbs


example: your city

example: your house


example: lip balm

example: cracking your knuckles


example: collecting stamps

example: following the Bears closely


example: start this

example: tweet that

information sources

example: all of the newspaper (vs just the front page)

example: every columnist who's mildly though-provoking or entertaining


example: journal every day

example: complete a crossword puzzle every week


example: bitcoin

example: romantic relationship


example: Sales Manager

example: Uber driver

mental commitments

example: read Brothers Karamazov

example: buy a pair of Bean Boots


example: the labor union

example: Costco


example: Facebook

example: seriously, Facebook


example: the local evening news

example: The New York Times


example: become an early-round investor in startup Z

example: run for re-election


example: your triumvirate

example: your involvement with the firm


example: Jacob is better than Edward

example: we should wait to have kids


example: retain all of your paper receipts (I used to do this!)

example: use Mint to track your finances and categorize all of your expenses

projects and programs

example: renovate the living room

example: re-design the website

purchases, including recurring

example: Starbucks every day

example: Subscribe & Save


example: keep in touch with Larry

example: friendship with Susan


example: perform weekly review every Sunday evening

example: perform yearly review the last week of December


example: mentor

example: traveler


example: books on shelf must be alphabetized

example: mate must be 5'8"or taller


example: newsletter

example: mailing list


example: flash cards for your organic biology course

example: Getting Things Done (GTD)


example: complete an outline of the book

example: draft another chapter


example: disturbing thought A

example: scary thought B

time map items, i.e., any other things you do regularly

example: cuddle after the alarm clock goes off [WARNING: quit this at your own risk]

example: floss teeth in the morning


example: Evernote

example: pencils




example: MAGA

example: Social Justice Warrior

Isn't it amazing how much of our self-identity consists of what we do, plan to do, have, plan to have, think we like, or like to think?

If you're on the fence about whether to drop a commitment

Why are you currently committed to the non-essential thing, anyway?

  • If it's because you've already put a lot into it, drop it!

  • If it's because you like thinking of yourself as someone who does it or has it, drop it!

  • If it's because you've always done it, drop it!

You could always run what Greg McKeown calls a reverse pilot: remove the thing for a while and see if anything bad happens. If nothing bad happens, it's okay to make the change permanent.

Why are you thinking about quitting the thing?

If deep down you know it's actually essential, and you're thinking about quitting it just because it's difficult, keep it!

The Don't Quit List

There are some things that, generally, you shouldn't quit. It's a pretty slim list, but here are the commitments that are best left in place, if you can help it:

  • accountability

  • allegiance to a specific sports team, unless certain conditions are met

  • community, in general

  • covenants

  • life itself

  • medical treatment, without consulting a doctor

  • obeying the law (pay your taxes, people!)

  • roles in which others are completely dependent upon you, like fatherhood

There are probably a few other things on both lists, but this is all I can think of right now. Let me know what I've missed, and I'll update the lists!

Quit something TODAY

Scan The Quit List above.

  • As you scanned, what came to mind as something you could/should quit?

  • What would stop you from quitting it today?

Adding to life by...adding

At the risk of suggesting a system you'll just want to quit later...

I often forget what I've quit, which is just silly because I end up investing additional resources in something I've already decided to pull back from and then have to make the decision (to quit) again, later, once I've come to my senses.

I have a weekly (Thursday ;) OmniFocus task to Quit Something. When I complete the task, I record the dropped commitment in the notes field.

Resources I like

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown, because discerning what's most important and saying no to nearly everything else might just be the skill to cultivate in the 21st century

  • What's Best Next by Matt Perman, because clarity about what it means to be truly effective is critical

Like what you read? Feel free to feature this in your own piece - just be sure to cite me

#storystruggle #selfstruggle #mariekondo #konmarimethod #essentialism #gregmckeown #bobgoff #billsimmons #personalleadership #mattperman

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Copyright 2022 Josh Robertson. All rights reserved.