My ‘don’t do’ list

I’m a big fan of the ‘to do’ list. Seemingly never happier than when I’m ticking things off the list, I always have a list on the go. Work, household tasks, holidays, presents to buy, greetings cards to send, shopping to do – you name it, I’ve listed it.

I’m starting to wonder whether I need another kind of list – a ‘don’t do’ list. If I recognize what doesn’t lead to greater efficiency, better output, more creativity, I can then try to cut it out of my activity. In my head, the equation looks like this:

‘to do list’ + ‘don’t do’ list = maximized results

productivity to do lists don't do lists how to be more efficient and effective at work

As I consider drawing up my ‘don’t do’ list, these are the first items that come to mind:

Don’t reply to multiple recipient emails immediately

I often receive emails which are addressed to several recipients. It seems like there’s an instant flurry of replies, supplying extra info, querying details, pitching in with another point of view. By waiting a while, this dies down, leaving me to read all the info and reply more effectively and succinctly.

Don’t get stressed about details all the time

I need to exercise more discernment regarding detail. Some projects require huge levels of detail: some subjects require an open mind, intuition and reflection on lessons from past experience. I need to look at a new project and decide which kind it is before diving into deep detail.

Don’t think it’s a good idea not to take a break

Too often I hear myself saying ‘I’ll just finish this/send this e-mail/make this call before I take a break’ and I’m still sitting there an hour later. Ploughing on relentlessly in order to get stuff done when I really need to take a break is a recipe for disaster. I become less productive, I get bogged down in miscellany, I make mistakes. Even if all I do is get up and make a cuppa, those few minutes away from the task give me a chance to stretch my limbs, relax my mind and return with renewed focus.

So today’s pebble for you to consider:

What needs to be on your ‘don’t do’ list?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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One Response to My ‘don’t do’ list

  1. Roger Martini says:

    Two of my “don’t dos” are:
    try to pick up and carry everything thinking it is quicker than making two journeys. This is a practical variation on the tendency to keep interrupting my activities to fit something else in: it all takes longer in the end.
    The second is:
    try to resolve all ambiguity. Chances are there is fundamental uncertainty (apologies to Heisenberg!) so there are things that as soon as I have pinned them down will change. The trick is spotting which ones.

    Both are exercises in patience!

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