While a to do list is a crucial part to a successful day, building a don’t do list is likely to have much longer and further reaching benefits to your success. Where to do lists are all about the tactical things you need to work through in a given day or for a project, a don’t do list is all about the strategic things you’re going to cut out of your life.
With those things out of your life you’ve got room to get the most important tasks of the day done. Once we are specific about calling out the things we’re not going to do in a day, it gets much harder for the urgent but not important tasks to consume huge swaths of our day.
A don’t do list helps ensure that we have a default no to so many commitments and thus the margin we need for our important tasks.
If you want to be more successful by building a don’t do list, here are 3 questions to ask yourself:
1. What saps your energy for the day?
The first place to start as we build out a don’t do list is to figure out what saps your energy in the day. If checking your email kills your productivity for the rest of the day then add no email before noon to your don’t do list.
If morning meetings, or writing, or phone calls regularly derail your work on the most important projects in your life, then cut them out. Maybe that means you don’t do them in the morning or perhaps you only do calls on Tuesday’s.
If you can cut those energy draining tasks out of your most productive parts of the day you’re now free to get your 3 most important tasks done without interruption. Then when your energy is lower you can do the tasks that are troublesome anyway and know you got your most important tasks of the day done.
“Without passion, you don’t have anything, without energy you have nothing.” – Donald Trump
2. Which projects sound interesting, but are really just procrastination techniques?
Many of us have great ideas regularly. Ideas we’d love to pursue and would be a great success. The problem is that these ideas regularly come up in the midst of current projects right at the point where we’re in the messy middle grinding out the hard work to complete a project.
You’re writing a book and one of the research pieces gives you a bunch of ideas about other things you could write that aren’t about the book you should be working on. When these new ideas come up, write them on your don’t do list.
You’re actively deciding that it’s good enough idea to write down, but now is not the time to waste energy on it. Once you’re done with your current, more important project push, come back to the ideas on your don’t do list and take one off and run that project to completion.
3. What does everyone else view as normal?
How many people around you think it’s totally normal to get interrupted by their phone every 5 minutes? They dive into answering Tweets or checking Facebook and in the process continually get distracted from their work.
Many things that everyone views as normal should go on your list of things you’re never going to do. If you can cut out so much of the fluff that people engage in everyday, then you’re going to have the time to dive into the projects that matter.
What’s ‘normal’ is also average, and no one wakes up expecting to be average. If you don’t want to be average put most of what those around you view as normal on your don’t do list.
If you can use these 3 questions above to build your don’t do list and then stick to it, you’re going to have so much more space in your life. Space to improve yourself with reading. Space to build relationships with those you care about. Space to build the business you want to build.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou