Why you should have a To Don’t List!

Why you should have a To Don’t List!

Four Behaviours of Effective People: 3. Managing Your Time Well

Welcome to the third blog in Arbre’s series on the four key behaviours that support Personal Effectiveness. – 3. Managing your time effectively.

So far we have covered the key behaviours of 1. Assertiveness  and 2. Learning to Be Proactive.  Our final blog will cover Influencing Others: Stepping out of your comfort zone and learning how to use different influencing styles to suit different situations – so do watch this space!

We recently published an article on Getting Things Done! – 6 tips for Managing your Time More Effectively.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I have attached a link to these useful tips and will focus in this blog on a simple concept that could really change your life for the better when trying to get a handle on your lack of time efficiency: the To Don’t List!

The Traditional To Do List

A daily, weekly or monthly To Do list or planner can be incredibly useful in helping us to focus our minds on getting things done, and many of us gain a very motivating sense of achievement every time we tick off an item from our list.  There is undoubtedly a place for the traditional To Do list in our time management toolkits.

However, if you are anything like me (a To Do List Neglecter!), your list will sometimes (often?) sit sadly on your desk hidden under a pile of papers, unchecked and unticked.  Your list gets unceremoniously dumped as more urgent, unanticipated tasks take over for the day, you let yourself get side tracked by social media (a particular foible of mine) or you are so de-motivated by the length of the list or its lack of really interesting tasks that you simply can’t be bothered to do it!   And then, at the end of the day when you retrieve your neglected and crumpled list from the bottom of the pile, you are left feeling frustrated and cross with your lack of effectiveness and getting things done!  The To Do list can actually make you feel rather de-motivated.

If, on the other hand and at the other end of the spectrum, you are a To Do list Stickler – one of those people who loves nothing more than to create their list and STICK to it at all costs (or feel extremely anxious if forced to deviate) – the To Do list can actually really narrow your view and stifle creativity and flexibility.

So what is the solution?  How can we ensure that we have a meaningful priority list that we will actually complete?  The simple answer might well be a ‘To Don’t’ list.

Introducing the To Don’t List!

Your ‘To Don’t’ list can be used to impressive effectiveness in two ways (you could argue that List 2 is really an extension of List 1, but I find it more helpful to separate them and look at them independently):

  1. Using a To Don’t List to eliminate BAD HABITS :

Compile a list of habits or actions that you tend to do regularly and are not directly linked to your core business.  Keep the list on or near your desk so you can see it and remind yourself every morning of the things you WON’T be doing that day.  You will probably need to review and add to your list initially and actively think about not doing the list items.  You should find, however, that after a few weeks your To Don’t ‘Bad Habits’ list will become a habit itself (a good one!) and you will subconsciously start to avoid doing those time-wasting activities.

To give you an idea, my list goes as follows.  I will NOT:

– Check Facebook, LinkedIn and the BBC News App regularly through out the day.  Instead, I will have three designated 30 minute slots to review them: first thing in the morning, lunch time and after I have finished work.

– Allow myself to be sidetracked by emails.  I will switch off my email notification on my phone and check my emails every two hours only.

– Seek perfection in my everyday emails and reports when what I have is good enough.  This means not checking a draft 10 times or worrying about the font size!

– I will not put off the important tasks (usually admin related!) that I do not enjoy doing. Instead, I will schedule them into my weekly ‘To Do’ list and, emergencies allowing, will stick to those time slots. 

– Automatically say yes to new work without considering properly if a) I have the time right now to do it justice or b) it’s work I actually want to do!

2. Using a To Don’t List to help you do more with less.

Another way to look at a To Don’t list is as a tool to help you implement the 80/20 rule (or the Pareto Principle) in your approach to prioritising your workload.  The 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of our success comes from just 20% of our actions.

Writing a list of the 80% of of your actions that are not urgent or critically important – the activities that you are currently doing, but you don’t need to put on your To Do list right now – can help you to identify the 20% of actions that will have the biggest impact on you achieving your goals – effectively enabling you to do more with less.  The benefits of this, in addition to a much more effectively prioritised and motivating To Do list, include a reduction in your workload and stress, a better understanding of the things that really matter to your business and greater flexibility to respond positively to new opportunities or challenges as they arise.

However liberating the To Don’t list is, I should hasten to add that it should never be used as an excuse not to do the work that you need to do, but don’t enjoy (add this to your bad habits list if you think you might be prone to!)!

If you are serious about improving your productivity and the way you spend your time, why not try creating one or both of these To Don’t lists?  I’d love to hear about the impact they have had on how you prioritise and how successfully you have shaken off some of those bad habits…!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: