Our blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

May 30, 2009

To-Don’t List: Why focusing on the things you shouldn’t be doing actually helps you focus on the things you should

So, anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big list maker and a good “to-do-er”. (Case in point: I have been packed for two weeks for a vacation that doesn’t start for another 12 days.)

One of the best parts of my day is my morning coffee date with my to-do list. Going over the things that I want to prioritize for the day is a good practice and something that helps me stay on task…most of the time. However sometimes, despite my best laid plans, I still fall prey to predictable distractions and procrastination.

Often times it is things that I need or want to do anyway, but it isn’t the best use of my time to do them at that point. For example, (need) work on a project plan that isn’t due for 3 weeks or (want) peruse the Decor8 and OhJoy blogs (and don’t even get my started on Etsy). None of these things are bad, but they do compromise my worklife fit because three hours later I will still have just as much to do to be ready for the next day.

A recent post by Peter Bregman, made me think differently about how to stay on track.

Peter’s post talks about the overwhelming pace of our current world and long list of tasks and expectations that most of us face. He encourages that people should make two lists:
1. One with the things that are important to them, that they want to make time for.
2. And another for the distractions, the things that you don’t want to achieve, are not important to do, and that generally get in the way.

Of course, it seems that his point is much larger than the 30 minutes misallocated to Decor8, and is more about the importance of Saying NO in general, but I actually found the same principle to be helpful. At first it seemed a little counterintuitive…won’t writing the things that I don’t want to do out just make me think about them? But in actuality, of course, it makes sense that if I explicitly commit to not doing something (versus not really thinking about it at all) it is much more likely that I won’t do it.

So, starting today I wrote two lists -
My To-Do List: Things that I am going to do today.

And, My To-Don’t List: This included 1. things that I am going to do, but not today. 2. Things that waste my time and that I should try very hard to avoid.

So far, it has worked really well! I knew what activities were “off the table” and was able to stay clearly focused on the things I had identified as important...maybe ill begin to like my date with my to-don’t list more than my date with my to-do list.

posted by Adelaide

1 comment:

Karl said...

Some thoughts from the UK:
Working long hours is not working hard or necessarily effectively.
A culture of having to be seen to be v busy has developed.
Focusing can make you stale and unopen to new ideas.
Browsing cycling websites make you more profitable.
Ok, maybe not all of these are sensible (the last certainly is), but having the confidence to pursue ideas and thoughts that you ar enot paid to do is one of the great freedoms of running your own business.
Which is what I am always telling my coDirector Sophy when I'm posting on blogs like yours ...