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Write Your Not To Do List

This is one tool for effective leadership and productivity that you can action immediately.


The Tip

Do you ever struggle to focus? Do you fail to get around to the things that really matter to you? The things at the top of your To Do list.

If so, why not write a Not To Do list?

This is a helpful tool to keep you focused on the important things in your life and career. It couldn't be more simple. Write a list of tasks you don't do, no matter what. You could either:

  • delete them

  • delegate them

  • outsource them

  • or simply say no to them.

As well as tasks you don't want to do, it can be helpful to include habits you want to avoid. For example:

  • no checking email first thing in the morning

  • close email and stop notifications when doing deep work

  • no reading news during the day

  • only check social media for 30 minutes a day

  • don't let colleagues ramble

  • don't agree to meetings with no clear agenda

  • no going for coffee to avoid getting things done.

Everyone's list will be different. I find it helps to do this with a smile, so enjoy writing yours ✍

How It Works

There are two powerful benefits of this technique.

Firstly, reflecting on the things that distract us from our purpose is instructive. You can't solve a problem until you can clearly identify it.

So, take a bit of time to write your Not To Do list. Perhaps pay attention to the things that distract you over a couple of days and then start afresh after that.

Secondly, having a visible list helps us to stay accountable. Some people like to put a tick next to each item on the list each time they consciously avoid it. Other people like to take an inventory at the end of the day.

However you do it, this simple technique will help your focus, productivity and satisfaction in no time.

If You Are Coaching Someone

Although this is a simple technique to explain, it isn't always obvious when someone needs it. People don't tend to say "I am easily distracted" during a coaching conversation. So, watch out for clues in the phrases they use when talking about things they said they would do:

  • I didn't get around to it

  • I didn't have time

  • I had too much on

  • I forgot to do it.

Phrases like these can indicate that someone is distracted or lacking focus.

If that's the case, this is something the coach should explore through careful questioning to find out the underlying causes. However, in the meantime, creating a Not To Do list might help the coachee to get more done.

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