Eight Things For Your ‘Not To-Do’ List

Posted: May 4, 2013

The Friendly City Files

If you think to-do lists are helpful, you’ll get huge returns — in relationships, in productivity and in personal well-being — by creating a not to-do list.

Every day, I will not:

1. Check my phone while talking to someone. You’ve done it. You’ve tried the think-you’re-really-sly-but-actually-really-obvious downward glance. You’ve tried the, “Hang on, I really need to answer this text ... ” move. Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.”

Your phone doesn’t notice and doesn’t care when you aren’t paying attention. Other people? They notice. And they care.

2. Multitask during a meeting. The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic and about the people in the meeting, if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention.

You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, spot opportunities to build bridges and find ways to be indispensable to the people who matter.

It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying. And you’ll be the only one succeeding on multiple levels.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life. Trust me: The inhabitants of the planet Kardashian are OK without you. But your family, your friends, your employees — all the people who really matter to you — are not.

Give them your time and attention. They deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications. You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruption, so focus totally on what you’re doing.

Then, on a schedule you set — instead of a schedule you let everyone else set by allowing notifications — pop your head up to see what’s happening. And then get right back to work.

Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing. They can wait. You, and what is truly important to you, cannot.

5. Let the past dictate my future. Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them.

Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective.

When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know — especially about yourself.

When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving and understanding.

The past is just training. The past should definitely inform, but in no way define, you — unless you let it.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed. You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best.

And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think …  and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back. If only because being the focus of gossip stinks. (And so do the people who gossip.)

If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, then it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done — and you’ll gain a lot more respect.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.” Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, and even friends, is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do, you might feel bad for a long time — or at least as long as it takes you to do whatever you didn’t want to do in the first place.


Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg and is a ghostwriter and Inc. Magazine columnist. He can be reached at www.blackbirdinc.com.


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