We all carry a lot of baggage that weighs us down and keeps us from achieving all we could. Some of this excess blubber is the price of living in the world and may be unavoidable to some extent — things like commuting, preparing meals, going bowling with your father-in-law on Monday night when all you really want to do is write the next chapter of your book.

But there are plenty of shackles that we place on our own wrists and ankles out of an obligation to tradition or because someone told us we should be doing something. These are the activities that suck a ton of our time but yield little or nothing in terms of growth and don’t provide any essential benefit like keeping you alive or maintaining a good relationship with your spouse.

Should You Do It?

For example, how many times have you heard that authors need to maintain an active blog, post to social media several times a day, or write detailed outlines of each book before they start writing? It’s all standard advice that most of us take to heart and try to implement to at least some extent.

But do those activities really make a difference to your bottom line, which is producing more books and building a bigger audience? And do you really have time for all that?

Maybe the answer to both of those questions is, “yes” … for you. But it won’t be yes for everyone, and I’m certain there are things you’re doing every day, right now, in the name of your writing career that are not helping you at all and may very well be hindering you.

Writers Want to Do It All!

Call it what you want: your stop-doing list, the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule. No matter what you name it, just realize that you need to focus your energies on the activities that matter most in whatever endeavor you’re undertaking while limiting or eliminating those activities that don’t bring you the results you seek.

For writers, the potential list of 20% activities (those that don’t contribute materially to your success) would include:

  • Blogging
  • Guest blogging
  • Social media
  • Writing exercises
  • Detailed outlines
  • Pantsing

Again, it’s not a certainty that any of these will or won’t help you along the path toward your goals, but you need to evaluate them critically. For instance, are you getting any new downloads from the Tweets you’re sending into the netosphere? If you’ve been at it for awhile and can’t show a direct correlation between Twitter usage and your sales or book production, it might be time to retire your little blue bird.

Find Your Stop-Doing List

And this list is far complete. In fact, about the only activities that most authors engage in that shouldn’t be considered candidates for the “cut” list are writing and reading. Even then, there are qualifiers.

Does writing a short story for a contest do anything to move your author’s needle? Does reading Cracked every day help you become a better writer?

Maybe, but maybe not.

Find your fat.

Cut it.

Then dig in on the meat left behind.