Today we’d like to introduce a very powerful activity. Our stories don’t just happen to us; they are the culmination of a series of (hopefully conscious) CHOICES that we make. Deciding whether or not to go to work is, in fact, a choice. Granted, the consequences for NOT going to work may not be very appealing, but it’s a choice nonetheless. Similarly, staying in a job you don’t particularly like is also a choice. So is deciding not to tinker with a possible escape plan that could lead to something better.

First, download this worksheet and print it out. Next, list every single thing that you do over a course of a week. (Print several copies if you need more room.) If you’ve done any of the Time Budget work, this will be a snap. Regardless, the more thorough your list, the more effective you’ll find this to be.

Here are some ideas to jog your memory. Please note that it is by no means exhaustive, and not every item will be applicable to you.

  • I choose to make / not make my bed every day.
  • I choose to go grocery shopping.
  • I choose to make breakfast / lunch / dinner.
  • I choose to go out to eat for breakfast / lunch /dinner.
  • I choose to eat healthy foods.
  • I choose to continue living in this house / condo / apartment in this city / state / country.
  • I choose to clean the house / cut the grass / shovel the snow / organize the garage.
  • I choose to send my kids to school / homeschool my kids.
  • I choose to help my kids with homework.
  • I choose to send the kids to child care.
  • I choose to drive the kids to child care.
  • I choose to go to work at my current job.
  • I choose to commute ___ hours a day for my job.
  • I choose to put in those extra hours to earn that promotion.
  • I choose to start / not start that small business.
  • I choose to allow my kids to be in ___ extracurricular activities.
  • I choose to attend none / some / all of my kids’ extracurricular activities.
  • I choose to ask / not ask that person out on a date.
  • I choose to spend ___ hours a week working on my marriage.
  • I choose to exercise / go to the gym / do yoga / pilates.
  • I choose to spend ___ minutes a day on my personal appearance.
  • I choose to watch the news every night.
  • I choose to subscribe / not subscribe to cable.
  • I choose to own ___ vehicles.
  • I choose to earn that degree.
  • I choose to care for my spouse / sick child / aging parent.
  • I choose to clean the house.
  • I choose to pay for a cleaning service.
  • I choose to attend that upcoming family obligation.
  • I choose to keep my house organized / disorganized.
  • I choose to play with my kids / grandkids.
  • I choose to keep that second job.
  • I choose to give myself / not give myself “me” time.
  • I choose to sleep ___ hours a night.
  • I choose to pursue my hobby.
  • I choose to spend ___ hours in prayer / meditation.
  • I choose to watch ___ hours of television a day.
  • I choose to have a Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / etc. account.
  • I choose to spend ____ hours on the internet a day.
  • I choose to write that book / make that jewelry / play that music / scrapbook those memories.
  • I choose to spend __ hours a week in my secret hideout.
  • I choose to volunteer for that cause.
  • I choose to serve on that board.

Ok. You’ll notice that each item on the worksheet has a blank checkbox next to it. In effect, you are currently opted-out of every single one of them. (Which may cause you to jump for joy or incite a panic attack!) Now, go through each item, one-by-one, and literally check the box next to each one you CHOOSE to opt-in to.

A couple helpful reminders:

1) You can’t do it all. You only have 24 hours in a day. Give yourself permission to say no to GOOD things so you can say yes to the BEST things.

2) It might help you to ignore the “shoulds” and heed the “musts.”

3) Another good rule of thumb: make the choice you’ll wish you’d made on your life’s last day.

4) We all experience different seasons of life. Now that Kim and I have three kids, we cannot reasonably expect to get as much work-related stuff accomplished as we did before we had kids (while being the kind of parents we want to be). So keep in mind that just because you don’t check a box today doesn’t mean you can’t check it three months from now or three years from now, during a different season of life.


Here are a few starter questions. Feel free to answer any or all of them in the comments below.

What did you learn from this activity? Did anything surprise you? What’s one new thing you’re either opting into or out of?


  1. Debbie Green Debbie Green says:

    I choose to quit my nursing job to help take care of my Father who is on Hospice care, He has lived longer than expected, I am thrilled and we are still making memories!! I miss my work. I miss the extra cash, but nothing could compare to what I would be missing if I were not with him.

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  2. Darla Dernovsek Darla Dernovsek says:

    I noticed that I put all the “musts” I dislike at the top of the list, and all the “needs” that I enjoy at the bottom. Have I not learned anything yet? Sheesh — who really wants cleaning the bathroom each week to rank first?!?! Ah well, that’s why I signed up — to learn to do better!

    • Well, maybe cleaning the bathroom should at least be near the middle. Ignoring it for too long is not recommended. :)

      We all have room for improvement, that’s for sure!!

    • Becky Reisinger Becky Reisinger says:

      This reminds me of another opt-out that i have. I opted-out of cleaning the bathroom and hired a maid service to come and clean the bathrooms and kitchen. Those are the messiest rooms in the house and I got tired of spending my “free” time cleaning them.

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      Darla, maybe you’re just unconsciously “saving the best for last!”

  3. Sarah Jenkins Sarah Jenkins says:

    My dad died last month. I chose to quit my job so I can take care of my mom. She needs the extra time and attention now.

  4. Melissa LeFever Melissa LeFever says:

    So one of the things I found in my time budget was that I spend actual time worrying about work. Not at work, while I’m there I am actually working- but time at home, usually when I should be asleep, I spend worrying about work. I’d say it totals up to 1-2 hours per week. I OPT OUT! I used to feel productive “thinking” about work on my off time when I would solve a problem, but I think my 12am worry sessions are not solving problems so much as creating them. So, I need to find a way to Opt in to more and better sleep :)

    • Wow. Very insightful. I know a lot of people have that challenge of thinking about work while at home…me included! What I’m trying to get better at remembering is that oftentimes, our problems get solved a lot more easily when we let them go and completely focus on something else for a good chunk of time. (A work in progress!)

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      This insight will save you 78 hours this year alone, which is a three day weekend! YAY for opting out!!!

      • Melissa LeFever Melissa LeFever says:

        I don’t know how it actually worked, but it seems just setting that limit purposefully really worked. I had two nights of having to tell myself that I was not at work and didn’t need to worry, and then I’ve had a few nights of blissfully sleeping through my normal worrying hours. More sleep, meant a better attitude and more fun. When grocery shopping this week I wore a Power Ranger mask from the toy aisle for a few minutes before my husband realized I was wearing it :) It was too hot to wear through the whole store, but it was fun while it lasted. I also decided to opt in to scheduling time to write. I probably spend more time feeling guilty about not doing it, so I’ll opt out of the guilt and opt in to the actual work of it.

        • “I probably spend more time feeling guilty about not doing it, so I’ll opt out of the guilt and opt in to the actual work of it.” < - - - Sounds like a fair trade! :)

  5. Angela Dunlap Angela Dunlap says:

    I learned that I’m pretty much doing what I want to be doing. I clean the house when I want to clean the house, not on some imaginary the house should be cleaned this often rule. I do want to spend more time with my creative, inner child side, but that wasn’t on my list! So, I guess I’ll go write it there now and then check the box. I spent the morning taking photos of the snow instead of what I should be doing, but I had a lot more fun with my camera. My inner child is kinda hoping for a snow day tomorrow …

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