How to Create Your Don’t Do List for Increased Productivity

I have been preparing to teach the last 2 modules of my 12 part Star Achievement Series to a long-time client in Charlotte in early August.

In so doing, I came across a piece I love, but can’t take credit for and want to share it with you. I bet like me, you never thought about creating a Don’t Do list. By the way, I love Daniel Pink’s work and encourage you to dig deeper into the resources he offers.

Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and family.

The Law of “Don’t Do”
By Daniel Pink (The Flip Manifesto)

(The two most influential management gurus), Jim Collins and Tom Peters have long advised companies what to do. But both suggest that the secret to high performance for individuals is deciding what not to do. For instance, if you’re reading this at your desk, somewhere within an arm’s length is your “to-do” list. Many of us can’t imagine daily life without it. A to-do list focuses our attention and delivers a delicious dose of dopamine to our brains each time we cross off an item.

Peters has nothing against to-do lists, but he says that they’re insufficient—that we should also create “to-don’t” lists. He recommends that we specify and enumerate what holds us back—the actions, behaviors and obligations that sap our energy, distract our attention and therefore ought to be avoided.

“Get rid of all the clutter that undermines your sense of focus,” Peters has advised. Your to-don’t list can help you illuminate what belongs on your to-do list. What you decide not to do is probably more important than what you decide to do.”

The key insight of both Peters and Collins is that we spend too much time on addition and not nearly enough on subtraction. Yet it’s only by taking away what doesn’t matter that allows us to reveal what does matter.

Daniel Pink dont do list
Homework Assignment

Here is a little assignment (contest) for you to complete today. Create your own Don’t Do list for this week and share it in the comments below. See if you can come up with at least 5 items and stick to your list. We’ll send one lucky winner the Get Things Done & Control Your Day online learning program.

Good luck!

Joan Burge

“A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.” – Jim Collins


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