It is Monday morning, and perhaps like millions of people around the world you have a list in front of you. It may be a long list or perhaps for a few of you, a short one. Your list may be a significant source of focus and motivation. It’s possible that your list, however, is a point of frustration; a reminder that you are overwhelmed. What is the list? I’m talking about maybe the most widely used tool people use to plan their days, My To Do List.
Certainly, this can be an effective way to manage yourself and your day. But what I’d like to suggest to you this morning is that there is another list, one which in some ways is more important than My To Do List. It is the My To Don’t List. Now I wish I could claim that I thought of this, but a friend of mine said he tried something like it with a staff member transitioning to a new role and it proved to be helpful.
As I gave this idea more thought, it occurred to me that perhaps the biggest enemy of accomplishing My To Do List is stuff that should be on My To Don’t List. Things that may be of some importance but shouldn’t rise to the level of significance we give them. These items can take many forms. Interruptions that turn into emergencies. Little tasks we take on that “surely can’t take that long” and then suddenly occupy 2 hours of our time. Things that end up on our list because we have not learned how to pronounce the word “No”. Things that don’t take us actively toward accomplishing the big mission.
There is a very important word that we can’t ignore. The word “My” to do list. I bet for many of you some of the things on your list should be on a list called “Their” to do list. I was working with a couple leaders recently and we found that by identifying things that were genuinely important, but should not fall to them, became a useful tool in identifying staffing holes. It is helpful in both identifying where help is needed and in crafting accurately defined roles for people.
In coaching people, I find that some are so overwhelmed by all that needs to be done they feel stuck. One of the first steps in getting unstuck is creating a well thought out To Don’t List. Then they can see what still needs to be done by someone else or simply isn’t mission critical and can fall off everyone’s list.
What about you this morning? Would it be worth taking a serious look at My To Do List and identifying some things that need to go on My To Don’t List? I suggest to you that it may be the most productive thing you do all week.
Live on purpose,