One Habit You Can Implement TODAY to Get Twice As Much Done
Try To Suck Less #3
The Problem: Your To Do List Doesn’t Work
How many times have you prioritized your day, set your to do's, worked non stop, and at the end of it somehow managed to complete almost none of them? "What the hell did I do all day?!" You might ask in frustration.
Often times, upon review, we find it not that we didn't work, or even that the things we did didn't need to be done. In the moment, they seemed important, but looking back, could have totally been delegated or waited for another day.
Other times, we find one task that was really important but we didn't want to do, so instead worked on a dozen less important things to procrastinate it.
To solve this problem, we must look to the cutting edge of medical technology—the neuroscience marvel that is Microscopic Cortical Stimulation Implants.
It's actually just a habit so stupid simple you will be surprised by its effectiveness, and likely kick yourself in retrospect that you hadn't already thought of it.
The Solution: A “To Don’t” List
A To Don't list, in contrast to a To Do list, is a generalized list of the things you are NOT allowed to do during "work" hours.
The things on it will be specific to you and what your work entails. You likely already have two or three you know will be added but here are some examples I've used to get your creative juices flowing:
No use of recreational websites outside of designated break times
No use of phone outside of designated break times
No checking email outside of designated email times (1100AM and 300PM)
No socializing until after lunch
No jumping in on emergencies unless the answer to the question of "is this business critical and I'm the only one who can solve it?" is "yes"
No checking of how well a project or content is doing before 4PM
No answering chats until 15 minutes after receipt (they usually solve themselves in this time)
Refining To Don’t’s
It's important that you make your To Don't's as black and white as possible.
For example, having a To Don't of "No replying to unimportant emails outside of designated times" keeps your inbox active, emails coming in, the necessity for your judgement on "important", and the willpower to say no to every one that isn't. This is a recipe for interruption.
A To Don't of "No checking email until X time" is much more likely to be successful. If someone needs you now, they will find a way to get a hold of you. If they don't, then it clearly wasn't important enough to them to be worth your emergency. I know many executive who take this as far as setting an out of office message telling people when theirs email checking times are and to call them if it can't wait.
Mitigating Your Triggers
You can help yourself follow through with your To Don't's by reducing as many triggers as possible. Some I have used are:
Close all applications that don't serve your current objective
Log out of or block "off limits" websites on your work device
Set non-critical notifications to OFF on all devices
Hide your phone in a drawer outside of designated break times
Set Outlook to "work offline" outside of your designated email times
Wear headphones while "in the zone" so other's see you are busy
Work somewhere else where you can focus for long periods of time
Rather than doing new To Do's as they come up, write them down to be done later
I still use most of these today, and it’s a miracle I was ever able to get anything done without them.
Advanced To Don’t-ing
As you refine your To Don't list, it might be worth tweaking even further to have conditional logic.
For example, for a while I used a more complicated system where I had a list of critical items for the day and once I'd accomplished at least 4 of them, I "unlock" the ability to work on "optional" items (less important ones that I find more enjoyable).
Only on lunch and after work do I "unlock" what I've defined as "recreation" activities. This motivates me to finish my critical items as soon as possible, and keeps me being productive even when I am taking a break or running low on will power.
Here was my list:
Critical 10AM to 6PM (Minimum of 4)
Post social media
Optional 10AM to 6PM (after completing 4 critical’s)
Business related Youtube, podcasts, or books
Train, exercise, or brush dog
Only After 7PM
After 12AM (note: I sleep after 2AM)
Take Action TODAY
But don't let making the perfect To Don't list prevent you from getting started. Spend 10 minutes writing up something "good enough", put it on the whiteboard at your desk (You don't have a white board?! what's wrong with you?!) then watch as your productivity magically doubles.