Is your task list taking over your life? Do you have more to do than you could ever imagine getting done in a day? Want a more productive life? Then you should create a Not-To-Do List.
This list is exactly what it sounds like. It is a list of things that you have specifically decided that you will not do. Not now, not ever.
How Do You Begin? Think Reduction
First, get a few minutes away from the chaos of life and grab a pen and paper. Also, bring your weekly calendar and task list. Matt Perman, in his book What’s Best Next, gives four ways to reduce the amount of things you are doing.
There are four main strategies of reducing:
Take a look at your calendar and task list and begin to imagine your entire list delegated to other people. Pretend you came down with a terrible flu and could not come into work next week, who would need to do what?
Now, there are going to be some things that will just have to wait until you return from your fake flu, but there could be some things that could easily be delegated to others.
Delegation is not giving someone a task and closely watching their progress. True delegation is empowering someone to complete the task effectively with as little supervision as possible. Stephen Covey, in his book First Things First, gives five elements of effective empowerment delegation:
- Desired Results: these are the things that need to be done, but not the methods to get there.
- Guidelines: show where they could go wrong and where they could exceed expectations
- Resources: what resources does this person have at there fingertips? Is there budget available? Are there others who should be consulted?
- Accountability: when should they check in and when should they be prepared for you to check in?
- Consequences: Tell them the positive and negative impacts of the work they are doing.
The key to elimination is putting first things first and stop doing the second things.
Michael Hyatt suggests that you should read over your task list and appointments and write down things that don’t line up with your job description. The things that don’t make sense, or don’t line up with your job should be eliminated.
You could ask yourself the question: what are the consequences if I did not do _________.
The natural tendency will be for you to think of the “big” things that you don’t want to do. “I don’t want to meet with any more angry clients.” Well, that’s a nice thought, but probably not going to happen. Instead, focus on a few small tasks that would help give you 30 more minutes a week.
This is the idea that you can set certain things on a form of autopilot a.k.a. automation. With technology, one can set many things to perform automatically.
Here are just a few things I use to automate my life:
- Boomerang. This system allows you to send repeated emails. So, if you remind your staff once a week to send in their weekly reports, you can write this email once and repeat it each week.
- Canned Responses. Do you get emailed the same question over and over again? You could create a canned response, a Google app, that would serve as a template
Everyone thinks that their problem should be the most urgent to you personally. Unfortunately, this is not the case for 90% of problems. Most of the time when you get an “urgent” email, it is not as urgent as the sender might believe. Maybe it is time for you to deploy the “put it aside until later” tactic.
In a meeting a few weeks ago, it was proposed that we meet next month in order to finalize the project. One of the department heads humbly asked if we could move the meeting to the following month (two months away). He perfectly deployed the “put it aside until later” tactic. Everyone was happy to do so.
For tasks that need to be done just not right now, consider creating a time-activated task. I normally set reminders to do tasks way in the future. These are things that should be done, but it will bring you a breath of fresh air to take care of them at a later date.
Creating the Not-To-Do List
After considering these four different areas of reducing, you can officially start your Not-to-do list. After completing it, make sure to post it in your office or leave it on your desktop as a reminder of what not-to-do.
The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now by Tim Ferriss
Do You Have a Not To Do List? by Michael Hyatt