How to Decide Which Projects to Drop

Feeling overwhelmed? Figure out which projects you should drop, stat.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #142

Sometimes, we’re just overcommitted. One clue that you’re overcommitted: you realize that no matter how much you do, you really can’t get ahead. I have three writing deadlines each week at the moment. I’m overcommitted.

My Facebook friend Sam calls himself “the One Mouth Band.” I don’t ask why. He might say “People would be too freaked out if I told them I had three mouths.” And what would I say to that? No matter how many mouths he has, he just announced a project that solves overcommitment. He promised a group of fellow musicians that he would drop 100 projects per week until his remaining to-dos fit in his head without stressing him out.

Just the thought of doing that fills me with longing mixed with dread.

His idea’s a good one. We don’t get overwhelmed because we take on too much. We get overwhelmed because we don’t drop as many projects as we should. I don’t regularly drop projects. I only drop them when I’m feeling overloaded.

How to Decide Which Projects to Drop

New opportunities to donate my time arrive daily. All it takes is saying “yes.” But opportunities to drop projects don’t show up. People don’t call and say, “You’re doing such a great job running our monthly bacon-tasting group that we want you to resign so you can have more free time.” No, people are sneaky. When you’re doing stuff for them, they know better than to offer you the chance to quit.

All the gurus tell you to set goals and start projects. Sam is telling us to drop them. Sam is my new guru. Yay! Let’s drop projects together. Grab your list of projects. We’ll figure out which ones to drop.

How to Eliminate Excess Projects

If a bigger goal seems irrelevant or outdated, that’s a sign you can drop a project.

Go through each item and ask, “Why do I need this?” Asking “Why” helps you find the bigger goal connected to a project or to-do item. One of my projects is “make a million jillion dollars.” I work really hard at it. Why? Well, I dunno. Maybe to get a bigger house. (But I like my house.) Or a nicer TV (I never watch TV) or a bigger computer (which would make distractions even easier). If the bigger goal seems irrelevant or outdated, that’s a sign you can drop a project. If a weekly project is to fill out a certain report for your boss, ask your boss why. You just may find the report is left over from a prior boss and can be safely eliminated.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.