I can appreciate the value of a to-do list, I suppose. It’s one of the basic tools of time management. You create a list of things you need to do, prioritize them, as it helps you to get the most important stuff done.
But that’s not what most of us struggle with.
Instead, the days seem to disappear in a lot of busy-but-not-terribly-important activities. Meetings. Facebook. Blogs. Emails.
For me, e-mail can be the killer. I funnel a lot of information through my inbox, so I get lots of newsletters, individual conversations and announcements running through it. No matter how efficient or organized I am about the process, ultimately I end up reading almost all of it.
What I need is a To-Don’t List, a time saver.
The idea is to periodically think through all the stuff I’m spending time on, and make conscious decisions about what doesn’t serve me anymore. Just this week, I went through all my newsletter subscriptions and LinkedIn groups and decided which ones don’t really have as much value for me anymore.
If it shows up in my inbox, I’ll probably read it. But if it doesn’t, I probably won’t miss it.
You can do the same thing for meetings. It’s a bit harder, because of the personal relationships involved. But the idea is still to go through the time you spend and decide which ones don’t really serve you or others anymore, and figure out a way to gracefully decline. Or perhaps replace the meeting with some other kind of conversation. Just realize that it’s not just about YOUR time and effectiveness, you may also have a (positive or negative) impact on others involved with the meeting.
I know people who have successfully changed the standard one hour timeslot down to 45 minutes. Usually this creates a little extra buffer time to do small tasks or walk from one place to another, with little impact on the overall result. In fact, most people will appreciate the change because it can help them use THEIR time more effectively as well.
What can you put on your To-Don’t List? Stop doing it, and celebrate that you’ve created a little more time to focus on the things which are actually important.