Mandy Green, Busy Coach
We all have a tremendous amount to do these days. Between recruiting, managing and training the team, office stuff, meetings, camps, etc, our to-do lists are getting longer and more out of control.
If you are one of the many coaches out there who is overwhelmed trying to get everything done, I want to help you regain control over your workload by helping you make better choices. Since we only have so much time to get things done, you need to CHOOSE what gets done and what doesn’t get done. You must consciously choose what you will work on based on how it will affect your program and the results you want to produce and you need to delay or eliminate other less important items from your schedule. You can’t find more time, but you can always change the way you use the time you already have.
Many productivity and time-management experts say the most helpful list you may ever create is one outlining what not to do. “Do-not-to-do” lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance in the office.
The reason is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.
The idea is to list all the activities you are intentionally going to stop doing for the sake of greater productivity. This is a list of activities that are time-wasters, your list of people not to talk to because they’re time vampires, your do-not-eat list, your not-to-have-in the office list, etc.
In his best-seller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins lauds the value of a “stop-doing” list: “Those who built the good-to-great companies… made as much use of stop-doing lists as to-do lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.”
I believe that there are 2 ways to figure out what should go on your do-not-do-list.
- The first step in deciding what not to do in your life is zeroing in on what you ultimately want to achieve. “If you really get clear about your real goals, visions and values, it will be easier to cut the extraneous things off your lists that aren’t that purposeful for you,” says David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.
- The second way to figure out what not-to-do is to time track. Write down on the left hand side of a piece of paper the day’s times in 15-minute increments. As your day goes along, write down what you’re doing at that time all day long so you can identify things that you may be wasting too much time on in the office. By taking a realistic look at how you spend your time, you can determine which activities don’t yield valuable results in return for the time and effort they require. Then, you can cut those time-wasters out of your life.
Let’s take you through some examples. I wanted to share this list with you because I thought that they were very applicable to what we do as coaches. Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week, had these items pertaining to email on his Do-Not-Do-List.
Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night
The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait until 10am, after you’ve completed at least one of your critical to-do items…
Do not check e-mail constantly — “batch” and check at set times only
Get off the cocaine pellet dispenser and focus on execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Set up a strategic auto responder and check twice or thrice daily.
Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7
Take at least one day off of digital leashes per week. Turn them off or, better still, leave them in the garage or in the car. I do this on at least Saturday, and I recommend you leave the phone at home if you go out for dinner. So what if you return a phone call an hour later or the next morning? As one reader put it to a miffed co-worker who worked 24/7 and expected the same: “I’m not the president of the US. No one should need me at 8pm at night. OK, you didn’t get a hold of me. But what bad happened?”The answer? Nothing.
Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should
Work is not all of life. Your co-workers shouldn’t be your only friends. Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Never tell yourself “I’ll just get it done this weekend.” Force yourself to cram work within tight hours so your per-hour productivity doesn’t fall through the floor. Focus, get the critical few done, and get out. E-mailing all weekend is no way to spend the little time you have on this planet.
Seeing through on your do-not-do list ultimately may take sheer force of will. Like everything, you will get better with practice. Jim Collins writes, “The real question is… do you have the discipline to do the right thing and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?”
When you get stuck on your not-to-do list, you waste time and end the day frustrated because you didn’t get anything done. Make your list and post it where you can always see it to remind yourself of what you should not be doing. Enlist the support of co-workers to help keep you on track. If you find yourself doing something on your do-not-do list, get up, walk around, refocus, and then get back after your important to-do list items. Good luck!
I’d love to hear what makes your list! Please email me your list at firstname.lastname@example.org