The Not to Do List…
Most people I know have a To Do List. But how many of us have a “Not to Do List”?
Let me explain the difference. The To Do List is about managing priorities, not activities. It is current
for one day only and is the list of things you plan to get done today. More than 4-5 items on the list is typically too many. All items should all be important and all should get completed today. Any activity not on the current list should be scheduled for a future To Do List.
Now this is where the problems begin – i.e. unplanned interruptions. We all have them and they
need to be managed. The trick in managing them is to only participate in those activities that rate
higher in priority than those on your To Do List. If they don’t, delegate them or defer them. Then
focus on the first item on your list. Keep going until it is completed, then move to the next one. If
you have priorities that rank equally, divide your time between these.
At the end of each day review your progress versus your list. Then prepare a fresh list for tomorrow
and start again. At the end of the week review your overall progress. If you’re falling behind, push
harder next week.
The Not To Do List is the mechanism by which you will create more time in your day. It should comprise a growing list of activities that are intended to free up time so that you can work on your To Do List. Here are some common Not To Do List items:
- Checking email, making a coffee or having a long chat with your colleagues when you arrive at work. Instead focus on getting the first 1-2 items on your To Do List done straight away. The key is not to waste the start of the day when you are fresh and at your most productive.
- Checking email constantly. Do it only twice a day and even better turn off the auto-downloader. Most emails aren’t important or urgent anyway. If a more urgent answer is needed make it clear that you’re available by phone.
- Agreeing to meetings without a clear agenda, outcome or time-frame in mind.
- Prolonging the social aspects of business – if someone calls you, ask “What’s up” rather than “How are things with you”? Get to the point quickly.
- Answering the phone if you don’t recognise the number. Let it go to voicemail. Decide later whether you’ll call them back, or not.
- Spending time with time-wasters who can’t help you achieve your priorities – low-end customers and overly needy staff are prime examples.
- Multi-handling documents or emails – deal with it once and move on.
Stay focused on the critical items on your To Do List. You can only do this by removing the constant interruptions and distractions in your day. This is why the Not To Do List is important. The two lists work hand in hand to provide the time and the focus you need to get the important things done. It takes discipline and commitment but it works…
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