I use to-do lists all the time, and when an item stays on my to-do list for a long period of time it starts to annoy me. It gnaws at my mind and is always there…haunting me.
Mostly, its a good thing because it reminds me of the things that I need to get done. If its not important I’ll just cross it off and forget about it, but if it is important, I won’t rest until I finish it.
Well…for the most part.
One particular item that has been on my to-do list for 6 months was getting a $15 payment I was owed from a former client of mine. Yes, I was only charging $20 an hour at the time, and it took me 45 minutes. It was a simple banner ad update, nothing major. But I did it for him when he was in a bind, all in good faith that he would pay me later.
The banner was finished and emailed it to him. Weeks went by, no payment. Months went by, no payment. I called, I emailed, I send reminder invoices. Nothing. Not even a response. And this is from a guy who had been very good at responding. His “venture” hadn’t gone too well, and I think he just dropped the whole thing…including paying what he owed.
I just couldn’t seem to let it go. Not because $15 was that big of a deal. What really bothered me was that he would just blow me off like that. That he would purposefully and blatantly ignore me and not pay what he rightfully owed me. The amount wasn’t the issue, the principle was.
I was preparing to send him a physical letter requesting his payment. I was working on putting together a draft and thinking about what I would say.
Then it hit me.
I had spent at least two hours over the past two months on collecting this $15 payment. Whether it was sending a short email, leaving a voicemail, thinking about it, or being bothered by it, this one issue was eating up some of my time. I charge $65/hr now. I could have spent that two hours working and thinking about something else and would have made $130.
I had essentially traded $130 for $15.
So I dropped it. I let it go. And I crossed it off of my to-do list.
Even if I had send a “collections” letter and he had actually submitted and paid me, maybe the check would have bounced and I would have been hit with a $12 fee. Maybe he would have finally answered his phone and we would have “had it out” and both he and I would have been left feeling angry and even more bothered.
It just wasn’t worth it.
How many times do we spend time, energy, or brainpower on things that just aren’t worth it? Whether its a project that is just not going anywhere, something someone said at home that rubbed us the wrong way, or some nasty comment we got on our recent post. We spend hours worrying about things that really don’t matter. Our time would be better spent moving forward on something else.
Sure, $15 is not that much money and 6 months is WAY too long to worry about something like that.