This week I have an unusual list for you to make: your list of petty annoyances.
This is not a “To do” list. It is a list of all the things, both big and little, that bug you—the things you’ve been putting up with and tolerating for whatever reason.
This list can include everything from the black gunk that is collecting around the bathroom tub to the car alarms going off at all hours in your neighborhood. You might be tolerating things you can control, like the crack in your rear view mirror, and things you can’t control, like having to take your shoes off at the airport.
Most people tolerate between 60-100 things, so keep writing until you can’t think of anything else. Consider what you are tolerating about your home, your work, your finances, your health, your relationships, your car, your friends and family.
Then, you can tuck this list away and forget about it and you’ll discover that just by writing it down, some things will start to resolve. Better yet, dedicate a full day on the weekend to blast through all the petty annoyances you can. Or hire someone to do it for you. I’ve yet to have a client say they regretted spending money to eliminate a petty annoyance they were tolerating.
One of my clients, a super successful Wall Street guy, said that of all the tips in my book, this one (Tip #1. Eliminate the Petty Annoyances) was the least useful. In his words, it was “fluff.”
I explained that, while these small things look insignificant, they prevent people from reaching their goals. Petty annoyances are the barnacles of life. Huge ocean liners get pulled out of the sea at great expense so that workers can scrape off the barnacles. One would think that such small critters attached to the side of such massive ships would make no difference at all. Not so. The barnacles create a tremendous amount of drag or resistance, so while the ship can still get to its destination, it does so at greater expense (more fuel is required) and more slowly.
So it actually does make sense to get rid of the barnacles.
The same applies to your own life. The petty annoyances look like small, insignificant things compared to your larger goals. But people fail to consider the cumulative impact of the drag and resistance these annoyances create.
Yes, you can still reach your goals, but it will take more time, effort and money if you are lugging around a list of 60 or more petty annoyances.
All my clients report a tremendous burst in energy when they eliminate these irritations—energy they can now direct toward exciting projects and goals. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to get rid of these annoyances so that you can sail smoothly toward your goals for the rest of the year, but anytime is a great time to clean the hull and set sail.
If you do nothing else, at least take five minutes to write the list!
This tip is adapted from the first tip in Coach Yourself to Success:101 Tips to Accomplish Your Personal and Professional Goals (McGraw-Hill, 2015).