What Are You Going To Stop Doing in 2014?

Sometimes you have to stop doing things to make more progress.

2013 was a complicated year for me. Lots of things have gone well, but I struggled with a deep depression from January to May. My running has been erratic (no marathons this year) and I’ve struggled a lot physiologically, which at this point I think I’ve been able to determine is some version of what is called adrenal burnout or cortisol deficiency.

As part of trying to get back to a happy place, I decided to stop traveling. I haven’t been a plane for work since the middle of May. Yesterday was the first time I got on an airplane since June (when I went to visit my parents for their 50th anniversary). I’m on a two week vacation (one week completely off the grid) – something I do every year around Thanksgiving since my birthday is on December 1st.

My annual rhythm tends to run from 12/1 to 11/30 due to my birthday. It’s a much bigger marker for me than January 1st, especially since I still have some grumpy jewish kid behavior around Christmas. So – with a week to go in my version of this year, I’m starting to think about what I’m going to do differently in 2014.

I immediately flashed to no business travel. Waking up in my own bed at home for the past six months has been transformative for me. So I decided to continue to not do business travel in 2014.

But that’s an easy one, since I’m already doing (or not doing) it. So I’ve begun thinking about the next things I’m going to stop doing. Some are work related and some are personal. I’ve always been an abstainer instead of a moderator so things like “no alcohol” pop up to the top of the list quickly. But that’s less interesting to me at this point than things that are more profound in a business context, like “no travel.”

As I work on my list of things to stop doing, I’m curious about what, if anything, is on your list.

  • Jennifer Silverberg

    I love this focus on STOPPING. I happened to hear Arvo Pärt’s “cantus in memory of benjamin britten” this past weekend … it carries an amazing message about the power in distillation, vs. dilution (at least to me :-)). So my plan for 2014 is to identify everything that is diluting my life, and eliminate it. For starters, eliminate: meetings without objectives, overscheduling (need to define), buying/keepiing junk I don’t need, and compulsive social media checks. More – or less – to come :-).

  • Just an observation from the sidelines – is abstaining really the focus? I have to imagine (certainly could be wrong) that no travel at all is great but a bit extreme? Could you achieve the same result by traveling but just a lot less? Or do you feel you literally have to cut it out in order to be effective?

    I had to think hard about this – I don’t think it’s my personality to stop something, unless I feel it’s truly bad for me. I started something new in 2013 which was to learn to do something I previously was bad at (or afraid of) – so I took up swimming. I completed my first Sprint Triathlon this year with my daughter and the feeling of accomplishment and sharing with her was incredible. For 2014, I’m torn between re-learning how to code (I was a CS major and coded for the first 7 years of my career, then I stopped), or learning to play the guitar. These things necessitate a change in behavior/schedule to fit them in, so by default I feel like I’ll give up the things that are less important.

    Happy early Birthday and Thanksgivingkuh!

    • JamesHRH

      Brad is not a half measures type.

      What he really should do is stop doing things in such extreme measures.

      • Sure – but that would imply moderation – and he’s saying he’s more of an abstainer than moderator, so not sure that works for him?

        • JamesHRH

          I know, but he’s had a train wreck of a year – on multiple fronts – he needs to look at more fundamental aspects of his life.

          Lots of people have an off / on mentality (with being diagnosed as ‘fill in the blank’). I call it the performer personality. The problem with being a business person who is a performer is that you get old…..and you cannot perform the heroics of your 20s when you are in your late 40s.

          That’s why ‘adrenal failure’ pops up for Brad. He has been running on Full Tilt Emergency mode for too long. You bounce back from that with a week off – in your 20s.

  • Mark Mc Laughlin

    Hi Brad. I run a Saas ticketing software company called Ticket ABC. We’ve always been very responsive to client feature requests but we still had the time to develop our own ideas and features. As the clients have gotten bigger and as we’ve expanded both client wise and geographically the number of their requests has also increased but to the detriment of our own ideas which became secondary in 2013 due to time constraints and the size of the tech team.

    The ideas that clients haven’t asked for usually go down the best and is what attracts them to Ticket ABC in the first place. The best comparison I could give is the girl who likes the guy for what they are but then changes the things that made them like them in the first place.

    Anyway for 2014 the plan is to stop chasing the development of new features as aggressively as we have done previously and focus on improving the UI and design side what we have to make sure that the quality of the front end user experience is as good as the development work that has gone into the product and try and develop a smaller number of higher impact features.

    We have always developed for commercial purposes but if the first few years were about always saying yes to requests I think we need to say no once in a while and try to give clients great features that they didn’t know they needed.



  • Cutting anything that I do half ass.

    First one has been exercise and wasted time. Cut exercise times per session by 1/3 and switched to high intensity, floor intervals. Less time, more results. Works.

    It won’t be wine for me for certain (www.arnoldwaldstein.com/wine).

  • osmanparvez

    I find I’m much happier when I reframe things in a positive manner. In other words, it’s not about what I’m cutting (the negative), it’s remembering to focus on what I’m creating (the positive) on a daily basis.

    For 2014, I’m going to focus more on what I’m creating; the experiences I wish to have (happiness), the fabric of connections in my social circles I wish to foster (authenticity), and yes, the business ventures in front of me.

  • panterosa,

    A few year’s ago on New Year’s Eve I put my kid to bed at 11 and deleted at least 100 contacts of my address book by midnight. People who crept in on school class lists, people who came via other people for some single reason no longer valid, and the people who were a negative vibe. I wanted the coming year to have space for new people who I wanted to engage with on my new terms, and I had to make space for them in my life to do that.

    It worked in the long run. And it was fun in the moment – I got to say “you’re fired” and “buh-bye” a bunch of times. I took control of my time and interactions to have them reflect my desires, not my perceived obligations.

    • Elizabeth Kraus

      I think you win best suggestion of the year. My New Year’s resolution: 10,000 contacts to 9,900 by January 1, 2014.

      • Joyce Weiss

        haha, I just unsubscribed from a bunch of emails!! and I guess will keep doing that – most are distractions.

  • I was thinking about this just yesterday. I’m going to stop behaving like I’ve got an infinite number of tomorrows. I’m putting this into practice with a little trick @danariely taught me. When an opportunity comes up, I will treat it like I had to make time to do it tomorrow — even if it’s a year away. And if I wouldn’t want to do it tomorrow, I’ll not do it at all (note: doesn’t apply to paying taxes and going to the dentist).

  • DaveS

    Hi Brad. Thanks for your post, you’ve shared some good ideas. In my experience, I enjoy much greater success by focusing on what I want (“starting something”) vs. on what I don’t want (“stopping something”). For 2014, I’m focusing on building excellent personal & professional relationships, developing some new technology ideas that have been languishing for the past couple of years, and having a consistent meditative practice. The latter has been the the most effective antidote for all of the stress, depression, and other side effectives accumulated after 35+ yrs in the tech industry. Happy birthday and have a great (off-grid) Thanksgiving holiday.



  • For 2014: Do more of what the kids are doing (dancing) and less of what the adults are doing (videoing) in this pretty brilliant piece from Spanish bank Banco Sabadell… http://youtu.be/GBaHPND2QJg

    • Cecelia Feld

      Thanks for sharing a bit of magic on an otherwise gloomy day in Dallas. The arts are such an important part of our lives as seen on the smiling faces of such a wide age range of people. I loved the little girl who stood, transfixed, from beginning to end.

      • Gloomy here in Toronto, too. Glad it brightened your day!

  • Williamsacks

    On my list for 2014:
    – Stop staying up late. Listen to my body and go to bed when I’m tired so I can wake up early feeling refreshed.
    – Stop doing product management, hire someone to do that 🙂
    – Stop eating sugar
    And probably some others that will come to me in the next few weeks.

    • Erin

      Yes, stopping with the sugar thing and stopping staying up late. Hear hear.

      • Joyce Weiss

        me too, sugar and staying up late!!

  • Paul Franzosa

    Hopefully I will stop looking for new employment 🙂

    • Nick Ambrose

      Hear hear.

  • Hmm… I think there is more I need to start than stop. Unless stop stopping counts.

  • I’d like to stop making money for a year.

    I’ve been working on a new service for years now in bits and pieces while I do contract work and other things to stay alive. It’s been very frustrating because all I want to do is get the product out and see how people react to it. Given that, I have a wife and kids and they all like things like eating and having a roof over their heads so it’s not like I have much choice.

    Money sucks. It just gets in the way of making great art.

  • oneumbrlla

    Stop planning on when to do things that are transformative and just start doing them.

  • Doug Gibbs

    I will quit my RSS reader habit. I should have stopped when Google turned off Reader, but instead I moved my addiction to Feedly.
    I love it. There are 40 interesting things to read every day, you, Fred Wilson, and every sort of startup advice, dozens of tech blogs, SEO and content marketing. All are there to read and learn from every day. I have learned so, so much. All of the feeds tuned to what interests me, and no one else. Then links from the post to more interesting deep stuff.
    All this reading and commenting is not the “right information at the right time”. I am not seeking venture capital right now, so while fascinating to learn, this blog is not for me. If I could get a little bootstrapped traction, that would be a much better way to find an investor. MBA Monday is great, but with no revenue from any of my ideas, why fill my head with all that? Thanks for all the great posts and useful information, but I won’t be here as much next year.
    You can always find your post when the knowledge is relevant later, thanks to Google.
    I will get back about 2 hours a day to do other things. I have big plans for those 2 hours every day.

  • As I get older I realize that my resources are finite; money, energy, patience, time, focus, etc. And because they are so, if I waste them on things that are not meaningful to me, either personally or economically, I don’t have enough of them to marshal when something important is on my plate. Because of this I have become more discriminating over the last few years about what or who I get involved with. Technology helps in this area; face to face meetings can be replaced with online meetings which I am sure you have found in your quest to stay local. Think about how much of your limited resources you are saving by not traveling, freeing them up for more important things. So my advice would be to stop doing things that aren’t worthy of your time, and then take the resources that they would have used and re-direct them to the things and people you are passionate about. This, along with cutting out black-tar heroin, has changed the way I look at life.

    Good luck!

    • Time is the magic one. I keep coming back to it. I have finite time on this planet – how do I want to spend it?

  • cjrcycles

    Fantastic post on a topic that I’ve recently discovered doesn’t come easy to me. I find that it’s easy for me to get caught in the productivity loop of getting more efficient, then filling up the new-found time with more things to do, which has a tendency to become an exhausting cycle. I think my 2014 resolution is going to be not filling up the new-found time with more things to do and instead using it for more self-restorative purposes. Thanks for the motivation and the early reminder to start thinking about this before the holidays hit full-swing!

  • kermit64113

    Stop cable news. Stop the talking head websites. Stop stating (start seeking). Stop unhealthy anger (start understanding). Stop talking (start listening). Stop filling (start emptying). Stop taking (start investing). And stop sitting (start standing and walking and running). – Jim Patterson

  • laurayecies

    I really want to do a better job of not allowing myself to be distracted by my phone when I’m in in meetings or events.
    BTW I just finished this book and I think it is one of the better ones on making difficult changes http://www.amazon.com/Immunity-Change-Potential-Organization-Leadership/dp/1422117367

    • Thx for the book recommendation – just grabbed it.

  • Alex

    I spent most of this year depressed too – caused by a painful break-up, low self esteem and feeling lost in my life and career. Recently I got rid of my smartphone (back to text-call only ), started 2 new hobbies and do a yoga position 1st thing each morning. I have noticed an incredible change. Next year I want to stop being self critical and prone to depression and break free from self doubt and live the dreams I was meant to be living.

    • Sounds like a great turnaround! I continue to despise my smartphone – I think we underestimate the negative impact on us.

  • For me?

    Stop taking things so personally (one of Ruis’s 4 Agreements http://www.amazon.com/The-Four-Agreements-Practical-Personal/dp/1878424319)
    Stop beating myself up about my flaws – (not productive – fix what I can but accept what I am)

    Ultimately, just STOP IT! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw

    • John Liu

      “Stop beating myself up about my flaws”

      – This vexes me without mercy. It doesn’t matter if the item was large or small – I flog myself constantly. This is the only thing I am going to tackle for 2014.It’s the water cooler of my mind where all the other faults congregate to discuss my complete and utter derailment.

      • I hope you continue to allow the poetry through – such a beautiful description for such a daunting challenge.
        Good luck. Ping me if you want to work on it together.

  • Cool. Nice fresh approach. Have been musing that myself, lately – thus, this very recent blog entry of mine…


    Hard decision to leave IT/business is core to this – I am sick of trying to fight my way ‘back’ into the community – nobody seems interested in my achievements/potential so I shall take my ‘skills’ elsewhere – heartily sick of the apathy so for now it is plongeur/barista work – what the hell, at least I seem appreciated there! 😉

    • Joyce Weiss

      You know what…..I just feel like turning off the computer, or at least the business part, and start living again. This business online has been a struggle, and I am getting very tired!!

  • Mischa

    It’s hard to believe that people who are so successful and well liked would suffer depression. I thought that was for the rest of us 🙂 I hope you are feeling better soon.

  • Arnel H Tanyag

    Brad, thanks for sharing who you are and what you struggle and suffer throughout 2013. You are real and I appreciate that. I want to say I will keep you in my prayers because you are a inspiration to start-ups and small business owners like myself. If you want me to pray specifically for anything, just send an e-mail with what needs you need prayer for to [email protected]. It would be my honor to pray for you, because the information that you have share over the last year has helped me, my business, and my clients. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  • Brad, you are intelligent because you are able to recognize what is going on, and then make adjustments.

    A lot of people, I believe, are divorced from their own experiences or states (or maybe there is a gentle form of self-delusion) and as a result, by not identifying or properly identifying the problem they are not going to be able to make the proper adjustments.

    It’s all about results. If the adjustments we are making are working…

    For myself, I am going to be less critical, towards others and myself. I thought it was a strength, but survey shows (i.e. an objective look at the results) it is instead a weakness.

  • Thanks for sharing who you are and what you struggle and suffer throughout 2013. I’m really interesting to read the article that you have shared. actually there are many things to think about. Sometimes people always believe that over time, the new year will be a lot of recent success, but the key to failure is the flavor necessary for our life. Many thanks.

  • JourneyMart

    Cool. Nice fresh approach. what you struggle and suffer throughout 2013. You are real and I appreciate that. I want to say I will keep you in my prayers because you are a inspiration to start-ups and small business owners like myself.


  • I’ve been thinking about this post and waiting to respond. I like the framing — better to take away than to add more. My big one is trying to disconnect over the weekend and for most evenings. Or, least the weekend. I feel I’m always on and it’s not fair to those around me, and I have been struggling so much to keep up and not saying no to work that I’ve gotten in a bad pattern. Add to this requests for new meetings and I end up in a bad place. So I’m stopping working all the time and trying to restore some sanity to at least the weekends.

  • Learning to say “No”.

  • Alexander Peschkoff

    Your Dig Sab sounds like a GREAT idea to try more frequently in 2014. And off the grid holidays. That reminds me of Tyler Brûlé…

  • Karyn German

    Sorry to hear you had such a challenging year, Brad. But, you are fortunate to be self aware enough to recognize the issue.

    I have been gradually letting go of a lot over the past couple of years…soon to be “in my 50’s” (51 will make that official), I have much less time to keep creating the same old karmically inspired nonsense. So, I aspire to let go of:
    * Workouts that are too tough for my middle-aged and held-together-by-titanium body.
    * Thoughts that I must be in charge, must be the boss, must be respected for my seniority (that sure takes on a whole new meaning). Ironically, as I have gotten happier by being an individual contributor, I find myself moving back to the senior leadership ranks. Which isn’t so bad as long as you don’t crave it so badly.
    * Putting work before EVERYTHING else. You would think that this obsession would have resulted in more “success”, but it has only resulted in a lot of wasted energy and emotion.

    • The last one is magical. Work is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But we’ve been so programmed as a society to believe in “work” and “progress.” Time to rethink that.

  • Bill Stearns

    One of the biggest things on my list this year has been not finishing what I start, so I guess I’m going to stop stopping.

    • I like that!

      • Bill Stearns

        It starts with one t-shirt that misses the dirty clothes basket. It snowballs from there.

  • Elizabeth Golluscio

    Brad, I’m just back from the “Innovations in Healthcare” conference at Sloan – see http://ilp.mit.edu/conference.jsp?confid=86&tabname=overview – which was kind of any oxymoron since my take-away was no tech will fix what ails us, and our healthcare “system”. Anyway, ‘adrenal burnout or cortisol deficiency’ is probably what Traditional Chinese Medicine / Acupuncturists call ‘Yin deficiency’. Us “work hard, play hard” types are most at risk… Take care of yourself!

  • David Pasquinelli

    my new year’s resolution is always to become a wizard, but you’ve inspired me. this year, my new year’s resolution is to stop being not a wizard.

  • As I’m living in sweden. I’d put reading this to my list. I.e. Not staying up late.

  • bigbadwolf

    class I_Will_Not extends NewYearsResolutions women: {}

  • Robert Williams

    Writing 2013 on my checks.

  • blackarrow125

    I plan to stop surfing the internet for hours a day and leaving useless comments on blogs.

  • Judd

    Sounds to me like you should try giving up email..

  • aaal

    ill stop having mental problems

  • Melissa Wingard-Phillips

    Hi Brad, I enjoyed and shared this post but just read an article about the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) and thought you’d appreciate it: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131127143442-8353952-the-joy-of-missing-out-this-holiday-season I am a regular lurker but thank you so much for all of your writing! As someone with loved ones who suffer from depression, I especially appreciate your openness and candor on that topic. Happy holidays!

  • Andrew

    Thanks, Brad. I’d like to stop mistakenly perceiving myself and others as solid, separate, and permanent.

  • Thanks Brad.

    I spent the last fifteen months traveling more than I ever have. I have always had high metabolism but this year it felt like I was easily fading and at the end of the day I’d just feel beat up. Somewhere along the way, I developed a small dry cough that wouldn’t go away and a general feeling that my body was fighting something. I saw six doctors, a chiropractor, a kinesiologist in search of something that I was sure was wrong. There was a long list of blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, upper and lower GIs…but nothing turned up. Incredibly frustrating because I believed all of them to be wrong.

    Finally, last week, after spending the night at a sleep study, I got a diagnosis that makes sense: I have sleep apnea. I have 100s of little abnormal events at night (most especially during REM sleep) that obstruct my flow of oxygen. I would sleep long hours but my body was being wiped out because it wasn’t getting a good night’s sleep.

    A simple plan but in 2014: I’m going to get comfortable with wearing a CPAP mask and I’m going to breathe and sleep well at night. I’m going to stop visiting doctors’ offices and hospitals.

  • David Mariner

    I’m going to stop putting off speaking to someone about my depression. Two years is too long.