Don’t Focus on What Doesn’t Matter

By Milli Thornton

Whenever a life lesson bonks me over the head, I’m the nerdy kind who will write a pithy reminder on a brightly-colored sticky note and prop it prominently on my desk to remind me.

My desk can look kind of hilarious at times. Brian remarked on it the other day, after seeing five new ones, including –


Conserve Your Strength

Don’t focus on what doesn’t matter :~)

The “Don’t focus on what doesn’t matter” is stuck to a plastic calendar card with a photo of a laughing dolphin on it. (The dolphin’s job as one of my desk mascots is to laugh at me, so he’s the perfect one to laugh with about unsweating the small stuff.)

But, to be honest, once I put the sticky notes up, I don’t usually remember to look at them at the crucial moment and take my own advice. I was ticking myself off about that this morning when a thought struck me.

Hey, I really have been doing this more. Maybe not perfectly, but more.

I think the intention is powerful, first of all. That moment of pausing and saying, “This is important. I want to remember this. I want to do it differently next time.” And then writing it somewhere prominent.

Secondly, I realized that the subliminal effect is probably a lot more powerful than anything. Just because I don’t consciously look at those sticky notes every day and base my actions on them doesn’t mean it’s not sinking in. My subconscious “eye” sees it and takes in the message. And then steers me that way.

And uses reverse psychology on me. Did I mention that part?

For the “Don’t focus on what doesn’t matter” I realized that, instead of looking at all the small things that come my way and deciding to waste less time on them, I’ve been spending more time on the things that DO matter.

I’ve been spending way more time on my writing. And that leaves me with less time to sweat the small stuff. Magic!

What’s on your latest sticky note?

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse.

22 Responses to Don’t Focus on What Doesn’t Matter
  1. Lois
    March 16, 2012 | 9:00 AM

    My sticky note is lodged in my head. “People matter more than my writing and artwork do.” This might sound ridiculous coming from someone who loves to write and draw as much as I do, but I’ve recently come to realize that if I don’t put the people I love first, the writing and artwork won’t have much meaning. As important as they are, the people I love mean so much more to me.

    I’m not saying I can’t say no to requests. I’m just saying that when the people in my life need me–really need me–I want to be there for them. The stories will still be there. I don’t want to be a workaholic who abandons real people for the characters and worlds I create.

    I don’t know if this makes any sense, but it was a real wake up call when I found out that people needed me, but I wasn’t there–not really. I don’t ever want to do that again!


    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 9:27 AM

      Lois, what a beautiful, heartfelt response. Thank you. I almost decided last night not to publish this, but I had a feeling I might get back something better than what I wrote so I went ahead. So glad I did. It was worth it just to get your comment.

  2. Lois
    March 16, 2012 | 9:34 AM

    Really? I almost didn’t post this comment, either. I felt like a naysayer or something, like I was telling people not to write or not to do what they love to do, even though that wasn’t my intention. I’m glad it was worth it! 🙂


    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 9:37 AM

      It didn’t come across like that at all. Your sincerity and your meaning both shine through unmistakably. Thanks for taking the risk. 🙂

  3. Lois
    March 16, 2012 | 9:41 AM


    You’re welcome!

  4. Marilyn
    March 16, 2012 | 11:07 AM

    I have put writing as well as everything else in my life aside for my husband, my animals and my friends. Excuse? Maybe some. But I am one to not feed my own needs sometimes and I am now determined to take care of the others but find time to nurture myself. I haven’t done this in the past because I felt I would run out of time. But Milli and I had a very interesting conversation yesterday. If we push ourselves just a little sometimes we can be productive way beyond what we thought. Sometimes it takes only a little more effort for a great result.

    Far as sticky notes; I make notes to my self constantly. I usually use them as reminders and throw them away when the deed is done. But using them to remind me to be motivated, well hadn’t really thought of it. I think it’s a good idea. Like writing a list of goals. Hum.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 11:20 AM

      I’ve been the same, Marilyn. I was shocked one time when a student said, “Milli cares more about my writing than her own projects and life.” I still love helping writers, but my own writing now comes first. And dinner is usually late. 😀

      • Marilyn
        March 16, 2012 | 3:53 PM

        Ha ha. Well, I haven’t gone that far yet!!

  5. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    March 16, 2012 | 12:24 PM

    Love this, Milli. So important in every aspect of our lives not expend too much energy, time or focus on what doesn’t matter! The things that really do matter-like making regular time for creative practice and living a well-balanced life in general – should really have center stage and top priority.

    By the way, I love the idea of putting those reminders as well. I have a few, and also there’s a Mr. Potato Head who sits on my desk. Well, he’s got pretty yellow earrings and is wearing quite the girly hat, so when I want to lighten up a little, I just glance over at my smiling cross-dressing friend wishing me well from the corner of my desk!

    As I often say: Life is too serious to be serious.

  6. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    March 16, 2012 | 12:45 PM

    Not focusing on what doesn’t matter frees up a lot of space in the brain, I’m finding–like to think about my WIP for instance. Plus it is just a happier way to live! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 1:01 PM


      Thanks for taking time to stop by in the middle of your exciting time. (I didn’t know your news about the publishing offer till I clicked on your CommentLuv. Congratulations!!!) Can’t wait to read about the lessons you’ve learned along the way. I’ll be over later to soak all that in.

  7. Deonne Kahler
    March 16, 2012 | 4:26 PM

    Totally agree with the idea that the act of writing it down is enough, even if you never again look at the sticky note. It’s as if that action that follows the thought is enough to plant it in your brain – same goes for me for journal writing, list making, or notes for a presentation, for example. I write them down, then don’t need them. Magic!

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 8:38 PM

      When you journal, do you ever feel like what you’re writing is already redundant before you can even finish writing it?

      That was happening to me this morning and I can’t say I enjoyed it. It felt so stale. Thought I’d mention it in case you had any insights.

      • Deonne Kahler
        March 17, 2012 | 4:48 PM

        Yes! I know exactly what you mean. Once in awhile I find myself halfway through a sentence and thinking, “blah blah blah.” Funny, like I’m boring myself in that moment. At that point I stop writing altogether, or move on to a different topic.

  8. Estrella Azul
    March 16, 2012 | 6:42 PM

    My sticky-notes are usually in my head. They tend to get forgotten and misplaced among sooo many other things I’m constantly thinking about.
    Or they’re on my phone, since it has a post-it-notes app. Of course, now it all comes down to “It’d work better if I remembered to look at the notes I make in my phone…”

    The other day however, I’ve pinned a new note to my inspiration board (saw it on KindOverMatter) which says: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
    That’s my latest 🙂

    • Estrella Azul
      March 16, 2012 | 6:43 PM

      PS: I’ll have to add a “Don’t focus on what doesn’t matter.” note there as well, with your name under it.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 16, 2012 | 8:35 PM

      “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

      Ain’t that the truth. Good one. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  9. j
    March 29, 2012 | 1:23 PM

    Talk about late to the party.

    First, I love this post. I’m that nerdy kid too. Two days ago, I went looking for a post it note I remembered having written. It says, “don’t get caught up in the bullshit” which, of course, is a less eloquent form of “don’t worry about what doesn’t matter.”

    I need to be reminded. My sticky notes act as my friends; they tell me what my friends would if they were in the room. And good for you for realizing your incorporating the messages subliminally. I don’t think I’m doing that nearly enough. (At least not with that particular note.)

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 29, 2012 | 1:36 PM

      I love “don’t get caught up in the bullshit”! I wish I’d said it that way on my sticky note!

      Strange how I almost didn’t publish this post because I thought my topic was lame because It’s All Been Done Before. But, for some reason, this has been my most commented-on post in ages. Go figure.

      And now that I reread my own post, I’m getting more out of it than when I wrote it. I just glanced up at my desk and saw a hand-colored folding sign that came with some gemstones I ordered. It says “You are magic.” Amazingly, I’m even starting to believe it!

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