The Ultimate To-Do List
We all have our lists. Some use simple pen and paper, the tech-minded rely on software and the bold and brave keep their list tucked away in their minds. We prioritize, plan and stress about the items on it. Many of us feel a slave to it and a deep frustration that no matter our efforts, it is endless. There are an abundant number of books, seminars and tools aimed at helping us become more productive, less stressed and more in control. Yet, why is it that so many of us continue to struggle?
Recently, I wrote an article focused on the importance of working “on” your business, not just “in” your business. One of the comments on the article was a brilliant statement. It suggested that what we really need is a Not-To-Do list (hat tip to Bhadresh Dani). Distractions, both self-imposed and not are the reason why we continue to struggle. The “not” are external forces, the things that just happen, because we all know “it” happens. But the self-imposed distractions are where we can benefit most from having a Not-To-Do list. These are the activities that fill our days but are not on our To-Do lists. These include attending every meeting, feeling compelled to be involved in every project or on every sales call or responding to each email as they arrive. It is micro-managing, over measuring and paralysis by analysis. It is also the more banal things we do with our time such as too much of it spent on social media.
What we really need is a Not-To-Do list
Many of us also spend far too much “mind-time”. Here we are caught in our worries for the future or ruminations of past actions. We question our decisions, our abilities or those of others. You can’t put the past on your To-Do list, as it would be a To-Done list. Although it may seem as if you can put the future on the list, truly you can only take action the moment you currently occupy.
For most of us, the reality is that no matter how hard we try or how efficient we become, things will still fall between the cracks. I think of it as trying to scoop up a handful of sand from the beach and carry it for a while. Even if we intently attempt to squeeze our fingers together, sand will still slip through. The key to being an effective leader is determining what can slip through and what cannot.
The Not-To-Do list is a great place to start. These are the things we can just take out of our hands. We need to eliminate those self-imposed distractions and allow ourselves more time to focus on crossing things off our To-Do list. Think about this; how many times have you been involved in something and thought, what a waste of my time, or why am I doing this? Grab a pen and paper and add it to your Not-To-Do list.
I purposely wrote this article using first person plural pronouns because I include myself as one of the many who struggle with my To-Do list. So I will be working on my own Not-To-Do list, but have included a few thoughts that have come to mind thus far. Let’s use the comment section to share ideas and items that should appear on our lists. Everyone’s is different, but I bet we can all learn from each other’s.
My Not-To-Do List
1. Do not respond or review emails within 1 hour of bedtime.
2. Do not respond to emails as they arrive, batch them and schedule time for email work.
3. Do not over volunteer.
4. Do not read articles as they appear in my feed. Set time on the calendar for learning.
5. Do not sacrifice exercise time to get one more thing crossed off the list.
6. Do not over think.
7. Do not go down rabbit holes, chasing my latest “new” idea.
8. Do not multi-task, be present.
Your To-Do list should be fueled by your Purpose, Vision, Values and Outcomes. These four elements serve as your strategic guardrails, helping you to determine where focus must be placed. If you are interested in learning more about how to establish these guardrails, I would be happy to set up a time to talk.
Thanks for reading.
A side note:
I recently read a short book by Red Katz called, Live Your YOUlogy. I found the book to be very insightful. I have had the opportunity to speak with Red and thought it would be worth sharing. Therefore, on Wednesday, September 16th at 10am Pacific, I will be interviewing Red. You are welcome to join. There will be no pitch, nothing to sell, just a great message wrapped in a good story. JOIN HERE
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