Do You Have a Not-to-Do List? You Should

6 Steps to Greater Freedom

To-Do lists are so popular they need no introduction. You’re surrounded by them: at the grocery store, around the house, even in outer space!

It’s easy to see why these agendas are so popular. You list the items that need to get done on a piece of paper or a device, preferably in the order of most to least important, and then cross them off as you go, giving you a sense of real accomplishment.

It’s a simple, elegant, powerful solution as to how to organize your days. But there’s a catch.

When To-Dos To-Don’t

Often, To-Do lists give you more items than you can reasonably-or even unreasonably-get done. What then? Enter the Not-to-Do List.

I came up with this idea several years ago and keep coming back to it. Happily, several people have joined the not-to-do bandwagon.

The idea is to list all of the activities you are intentionally going to stop doing for the sake of greater productivity.

And here’s why that’s important: As you succeed at work, you attract more and more assignments. It’s like you become a task magnet.

Give it to Lori, colleagues will say. She’ll do a great job!

But people are a finite resource. You only have so much energy and so much time, no matter how good you are.

When You Really Need a Not-to-Do List

The only way for a super-productive person to continue to grow professionally without going crazy is to periodically decide what you are not going to do.

This is particularly important when you have just been promoted to a new job. That’s when you really face the pressure to perform, and it’s the most difficult to say no. But you must say no if you are going to say yes to the things that really count-both in your job and in your life.

Keep in mind that the great risk for most people in new jobs is that you will continue to do your old job.

Now why would people do that? you ask. That’s crazy!

Probably because it is familiar. And your supervisor never said you had to stop doing it. Being aware of this dynamic is half the battle.

The only way for a super-productive person to continue to grow professionally without going crazy is to periodically decide what you are not going to do.

-MICHAEL HYATT

How Do I Create a Not-to-Do List?

The other half of the battle is to sit down and physically create your Not-to-Do List. Here are the steps I suggest to make that a concrete reality.

  1. Find a quiet place where you can think.
  2. Look at your previous month’s calendar activities. Write down anything you’re not sure really fits your current job description.
  3. Look at your upcoming appointments for the next month. Write down things that are questionable in terms of your current job description.
  4. Go through your to-do list(s) and do the same thing. Write down the questionable activities, given your new role.
  5. You should now have a list of Not-to-Do candidates.
  6. Now go through the list and put an asterisk beside each item that is significant enough that you want to add it to your official Not-to-Do List and shove it off your plate.

What Next?

Once you get your list done, share it with your colleagues and your assistant, if you have one. They can help you screen out tasks that no longer belong on your To-Do list so you can focus on the things that are most important to the organization.

It’s especially important to discuss your Not-to-Do List with your boss. You’ll need her buy-in so she doesn’t keep assigning you work that you have mutually agreed is no longer what you ought to be doing.

My Old Not-to-Do List

Just to give you some idea of what to include, here is the Not-to-Do list I wrote back when I became CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It prepared me well for that job and for later success as founder of Michael Hyatt & Company.

Not To-Do List
  1. Review book proposals or manuscripts for possible publication.
  2. Write deal memos.
  3. Negotiate contracts with agents or authors.
  4. Meet prospective new authors unless they have significant brand potential.
  5. Attend publishing meetings unless the topic is vision or strategy.
  6. Write marketing plans.
  7. Travel by car to other cities unless they are less than one hour a way.
  8. Check my own voice mail.
  9. Read unfiltered e-mail.
  10. Answer my own phone.
  11. Respond to (or feel the need to respond to) unsolicited sales pitches or proposals of any kind.
  12. Attend process review meetings unless there’s a compelling reason for me to be there.
  13. Attend trade shows for more than two days.
  14. Serve as a director on more than two outside boards.

Strike a Balance

You don’t have to be grappling with a new role to find the Not-to-Do List extremely helpful. If you want balance in your life, you want a Not-to-Do list.

If you want balance in your life, you want a Not-to-Do list.

-MICHAEL HYATT

Tweet Quote

Remember, the To-Do list tendency is to grow and grow. If you don’t periodically take a machete to it, your To-Do list will eventually crowd out everything. So get yourself a Not-to-Do list and swing away.

Question: What do you need to stop doing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Why You Get Distracted at Work

3 Things That are Sapping Your Productivity

It’s hard to maintain your focus in an office. With so many meetings to attend, drop-ins by coworkers, calls, emails, and countless other interruptions, it can seem like a miracle that anything ever gets done.

But do you know who the biggest culprit often is when it comes to sabotaging your productivity with distractions? Look in the mirror.

Interruptions or Distractions?

Interruptions are outside things that throw us off. Distractions are things we do to ourselves that derail us. Though sometimes, the two go hand-in-glove.

At first glance, that employee who sticks his head in your door to pick your brain about something is an interruption. But not so fast! Weren’t you practically begging for that disruption by reminding everyone of your open-door policy at the staff meeting?

We’ll zero in on distractions in this blog post-with the help of a great book called The Distracted Mind. But interruptions and distractions are closely related. In fact, I think if we were better at fending off distractions, we could see more clearly how to limit interruptions as well.

Out of Focus

Focus is vital to achieving many of our most important goals, but a pair of scientists at California State and UC San Francisco have found that our ability to concentrate is slipping fast.

Shockingly, students could not focus for more than three to five minutes even when they were told to study something very important, explain Adam Gazzaley and Larry Rosen.

Focus is harder among younger people but the truth is that most of us are deteriorating, in a way that can’t be blamed on old age. Scientists are discovering we’re all having a harder time paying attention, thinking things over, and taking decisive action.

Interruptions are outside things that throw us off. Distractions are things we do to ourselves to derail us.

-MICHAEL HYATT

Tweet Quote

By looking over their findings, we can begin to banish the distractions, recover our focus, and really get things done. There are three areas of concern that stand out.

1. We’re Distracted by Our Devices

Smartphones and other devices frequently interrupt us, of course. Our devices vibrate, shake, rattle, and roll, and our attention is captured, write Grazzaley and Rosen.

But actually, the problem goes much deeper than that. Even when we aren’t being buzzed or pinged or lit up, we have come to crave the interaction of our devices. We frequently take a break from our important tasks to check our phones, watches, and other gadgets.

This habit carries over to more than just work. When you go out to eat, look around and see how often people take a break from social interactions to stare at their screens. Which brings us to one of the big reasons we’re so crazy for screen time.

2. We’re Distracted by Social Media

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. The list of apps and websites that come together to claim so much of our attention is nearly endless. I get it. They can be fun. Used in moderation, there’s probably nothing wrong with them. But that’s not what is happening.

There is a constant stream of information out there, more than we could ever process. Scientists find we are not handling it well. The vast expansion of information over the last 25 years should be helping us, but often it’s not because we get overwhelmed.

And our information-strained minds crave information that’s easy to come by over information that is hard-won. For instance, when we are trying to do something mentally challenging at work that requires unbroken concentration, our minds are constantly pushing us to check social media instead.

It’s extra tempting since much of the work we do is on computers, and that distraction is literally just one click away. And all of this checking and switching messes with our focus and encourages our most counterproductive work habit, online or off.

3. We’re Distracted by Multi-Tasking

That awful habit is multi-tasking. [F]requent task switching is something we all do, and the more often we switch, the more detrimental it is to our real-world performance, explain Grazzaley and Rosen.

Study after study after study show that we are not good at multi-tasking, that it slows us down, that it leads us down time-sucking rabbit trails, and that it encourages shoddy work. And in the abstract, we understand this.

When asked if it will be less efficient and more distracting to disrupt this task with another task, rather than doing one first, then the other, people get it. We say it would slow us down. We know we ought to do A first, then B. But then we go right ahead and do it anyway-likely because we’ve made distractions such an integral part of our workday.

Banish Distractions

There are things we can do to buck the trend. We can put our phones away, use apps to shut off social media during work hours, and turn our phones off at dinner time.

But a mechanical fix is just a Band-Aid. Most of us have a real problem with concentration. Until we are willing to take a hard look at how and why we are driving ourselves to distraction, it’s going to be hard to find the focus that we so badly need.

Question: Which of these distractions has negatively affected your productivity? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Stand Out From The Crowd With This Counter-Intuitive Tip

Stand Out From The Crowd With This Counter-Intuitive Tip

Seems like everyone is into content marketing nowadays. Most treat the creation of content as just another to do, rather than an execution of a business building strategy. In other words, the mindset is often

Get it done.

Hit Publish.

Get to the next one!

That’s especially true of most larger companies, where employees do their jobs, few driven by your the solopreneur’s kind of passion. Examine your niche and find the few who really do stand out.

All, with rare exception, are solopreneurs!

Winning solopreneurs are driven by love-of-niche but restricted by time. We can’t afford to just put in the time – we must make every hour count. So

Only commit to writing new content when you know that you have something different or have a unique spin on something you haven’t seen elsewhere.

Content could be a new page or blog post, an issue of your newsletter, or social content that won’t just be more of the same.

  • First, get an idea.
  • Next, assemble an outline, adding research as needed. Some folks excel at writing a great piece at this point, but many more churn more of the same. Take yours to the next level.
  • Write your polished article.

This is where your content must escalate from me too to me only.

The secret? Weigh the concept with this set of questions

  • How do I make this impactful enough to dent my reader’s brain?
  • What’s the twist?
  • What will make it especially fun to read, useful to learn, or behavior-changing?
  • If it’s just another decent article, don’t publish. It’ll be forgotten within minutes in this gigantic sea of good content.
  • How do you take just another piece of good content to the next level?

Take a Break!

You’ve done the initial spadework. Put the piece aside for awhile. (Putting your feet up is optional. )

  • Ask yourself the right questions as you doze off (or do whatever you do to relax)
  • What’s so great about this article?
  • How will it stand out from all the other good (but not stand-out) content?
  • How do I push it to the next level?

Clarity will either kill the idea as common or give you the angle you need. You’ll make it waaaaay better than if you’d moved straight into the writing. It’s so easy to get lost in write-write-write that you churn out just OK.

But no one becomes hugely successful with just OK.

It’s OK if you kill an idea (What was I thinking?!). Think of it this way.

Instead of losing the time you have put in so far (true!), you are saving time by not putting more into me too material. And you’re raising the average quality of what you do put out.

Bottom Line Takeaway?

Most online businesses, in the crazy rush to publish and move on, would read this tip and ignore it. They aren’t paid to be extraordinary.

For solopreneurs, this gives you a big advantage! So

Make taking a break part of your new routine. Your content will hit a new level.

Don’t miss The Second Best Way to Keep Readers Reading. Practice both of these strategies and watch your bounce rates drop dramatically.

P.S. Seriously, we’re not new age touchy-feeling folks. Just try it. Do it for 3 articles. Then drop back in here and let us know how it worked out in the Comments below!

Author information

Mike Allton

Mike Allton is the Chief Marketing Officer for SiteSell. He has spent years helping solopreneurs achieve success online through the precepts of content marketing: write great content, share that to social, and drive new leads & sales.

Mike’s focus is to reach people who have a passion for something and show them how it’s possible to turn that dream into a real online business and income.

The post Stand Out From The Crowd With This Counter-Intuitive Tip appeared first on Solo Build It! Blog – Proven Real-World Advice for Solopreneurs.

Are You Committing One of The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity?

My Free Webinar Will Help You Overcome Them and Get Things Done

There’s a lot of bad productivity advice that’s widely practiced. Because the nature of our work changes so much, you might not even be able to spot some of the time-wasters hiding in your schedule right now.

They’re secretly a routine part of your schedule. Worse, they’re behaviors you think are making you more productive but are actually doing the opposite.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Time Management Disaster

For instance, effective time management can be a great thing. But if approached in the wrong way, it can become one of the most crippling productivity sins.

Unhealthy time management hides behind phrases like this: I have to finish those reports, so I’ll just work through lunch. Or, I actually enjoy putting in a few hours in the evening or on weekends. I get a lot done because nobody’s distracting me.

To squeeze the most out of the time we have, we work around the clock. We’re on our phone at the dinner table and answering emails while lying in bed. It leads to longer days and scarcely any time to rest.

If that sounds familiar, you’re guilty of Productivity Deadly Sin No. 1. And you are not alone. Better time management seems like the key to getting more hours in the day. In fact, most of us assume time management is the foundation of productivity.

The inherent flaw in the sin of time management is that we think by managing time we can make more of it. But here’s the problem with that logic: Time is fixed. It doesn’t flex. We all get 168 hours a week. No more, no less.

But the good news is that, while time is fixed, energy can flex. In fact, we can achieve more in thirty rested hours than in fifty exhausted ones. And I have some good ideas for how to help you do that.

Let Me Show You How

Next week, September 25-28, I’m hosting a free webinar you don’t want to miss. In fact, if you’re a busy entrepreneur or executive, you can’t afford to.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity: The Hidden Habits Undermining Your Performance (And How to Change Them) not only identifies the obstacles slowing you down; it also reveals what to do to finally make the progress you want on your most important projects.

Claim your seat in this exclusive webinar and you’ll discover:

  • The No. 1 way to ensure that you’ll have a highly-productive day
  • How to get rid of 80 percent of your to-do list (and start getting things done)
  • How to finish projects faster-without sacrificing quality
  • When to totally ignore your email (and increase your contributions at the same time)
  • The quickest way to clear your mind and immediately reduce stress
  • When to say no to digital solutions that could actually kill your efficiency

We can’t afford to keep making these mistakes. There’s too much on the line: our health, our personal success, not to mention our relationships.

Which of these seven sins is slowing you down? Register for my webinar, find out, and discover what to do instead. It’s free, but the available slots are limited.

If my previous webinars are any indication, spaces will go quickly. We normally max out, so register while you can.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, our worlds are too competitive to miss a chance to up our own game. Overcoming these seven deadly sins will not only free us to focus on what matters most in our professional and personal lives, it can also give us a critical edge in the marketplace.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Are You Committing One of The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity?

My Free Webinar Will Help You Overcome Them and Get Things Done

There’s a lot of bad productivity advice that’s widely practiced. Because the nature of our work changes so much, you might not even be able to spot some of the time-wasters hiding in your schedule right now.

They’re secretly a routine part of your schedule. Worse, they’re behaviors you think are making you more productive but are actually doing the opposite.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Time Management Disaster

For instance, effective time management can be a great thing. But if approached in the wrong way, it can become one of the most crippling productivity sins.

Unhealthy time management hides behind phrases like this: I have to finish those reports, so I’ll just work through lunch. Or, I actually enjoy putting in a few hours in the evening or on weekends. I get a lot done because nobody’s distracting me.

To squeeze the most out of the time we have, we work around the clock. We’re on our phone at the dinner table and answering emails while lying in bed. It leads to longer days and scarcely any time to rest.

If that sounds familiar, you’re guilty of Productivity Deadly Sin No. 1. And you are not alone. Better time management seems like the key to getting more hours in the day. In fact, most of us assume time management is the foundation of productivity.

The inherent flaw in the sin of time management is that we think by managing time we can make more of it. But here’s the problem with that logic: Time is fixed. It doesn’t flex. We all get 168 hours a week. No more, no less.

But the good news is that, while time is fixed, energy can flex. In fact, we can achieve more in thirty rested hours than in fifty exhausted ones. And I have some good ideas for how to help you do that.

Let Me Show You How

Next week, September 25-28, I’m hosting a free webinar you don’t want to miss. In fact, if you’re a busy entrepreneur or executive, you can’t afford to.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity: The Hidden Habits Undermining Your Performance (And How to Change Them) not only identifies the obstacles slowing you down; it also reveals what to do to finally make the progress you want on your most important projects.

Claim your seat in this exclusive webinar and you’ll discover:

  • The No. 1 way to ensure that you’ll have a highly-productive day
  • How to get rid of 80 percent of your to-do list (and start getting things done)
  • How to finish projects faster-without sacrificing quality
  • When to totally ignore your email (and increase your contributions at the same time)
  • The quickest way to clear your mind and immediately reduce stress
  • When to say no to digital solutions that could actually kill your efficiency

We can’t afford to keep making these mistakes. There’s too much on the line: our health, our personal success, not to mention our relationships.

Which of these seven sins is slowing you down? Register for my webinar, find out, and discover what to do instead. It’s free, but the available slots are limited.

If my previous webinars are any indication, spaces will go quickly. We normally max out, so register while you can.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, our worlds are too competitive to miss a chance to up our own game. Overcoming these seven deadly sins will not only free us to focus on what matters most in our professional and personal lives, it can also give us a critical edge in the marketplace.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Are You Committing One of The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity?

My Free Webinar Will Help You Overcome Them and Get Things Done

There’s a lot of bad productivity advice that’s widely practiced. Because the nature of our work changes so much, you might not even be able to spot some of the time-wasters hiding in your schedule right now.

They’re secretly a routine part of your schedule. Worse, they’re behaviors you think are making you more productive but are actually doing the opposite.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Time Management Disaster

For instance, effective time management can be a great thing. But if approached in the wrong way, it can become one of the most crippling productivity sins.

Unhealthy time management hides behind phrases like this: I have to finish those reports, so I’ll just work through lunch. Or, I actually enjoy putting in a few hours in the evening or on weekends. I get a lot done because nobody’s distracting me.

To squeeze the most out of the time we have, we work around the clock. We’re on our phone at the dinner table and answering emails while lying in bed. It leads to longer days and scarcely any time to rest.

If that sounds familiar, you’re guilty of Productivity Deadly Sin No. 1. And you are not alone. Better time management seems like the key to getting more hours in the day. In fact, most of us assume time management is the foundation of productivity.

The inherent flaw in the sin of time management is that we think by managing time we can make more of it. But here’s the problem with that logic: Time is fixed. It doesn’t flex. We all get 168 hours a week. No more, no less.

But the good news is that, while time is fixed, energy can flex. In fact, we can achieve more in thirty rested hours than in fifty exhausted ones. And I have some good ideas for how to help you do that.

Let Me Show You How

Next week, September 25-28, I’m hosting a free webinar you don’t want to miss. In fact, if you’re a busy entrepreneur or executive, you can’t afford to.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity: The Hidden Habits Undermining Your Performance (And How to Change Them) not only identifies the obstacles slowing you down; it also reveals what to do to finally make the progress you want on your most important projects.

Claim your seat in this exclusive webinar and you’ll discover:

  • The No. 1 way to ensure that you’ll have a highly-productive day
  • How to get rid of 80 percent of your to-do list (and start getting things done)
  • How to finish projects faster-without sacrificing quality
  • When to totally ignore your email (and increase your contributions at the same time)
  • The quickest way to clear your mind and immediately reduce stress
  • When to say no to digital solutions that could actually kill your efficiency

We can’t afford to keep making these mistakes. There’s too much on the line: our health, our personal success, not to mention our relationships.

Which of these seven sins is slowing you down? Register for my webinar, find out, and discover what to do instead. It’s free, but the available slots are limited.

If my previous webinars are any indication, spaces will go quickly. We normally max out, so register while you can.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, our worlds are too competitive to miss a chance to up our own game. Overcoming these seven deadly sins will not only free us to focus on what matters most in our professional and personal lives, it can also give us a critical edge in the marketplace.

Ready to overcome the 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity and finally make time for what matters most? Sign up for my free webinar and discover what’s holding you back and how to get better results right away. Click here to register. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

The Problem with Whack-a-Mole Productivity

The Real Purpose of Workplace Efficiency Isn’t What You Think It Is

When I started my career, I quickly discovered that I had more to do than I could get done in a forty-hour workweek. So, I worked more hours. I got to the office at 5:00 a.m. and usually didn’t leave until 6:00 p.m.

I often worked on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings, too. It wasn’t unusual to put in sixty to seventy hours a week, or even more. But I still wasn’t getting enough done. So I figured I just needed to get more efficient.

I attended time-management seminars, read books on productivity, and bought a better paper planner. Yet that still wasn’t enough.

My professional life resembled a game of Whack-a-Mole. Every time I checked something off my to-do list, two more tasks popped up. I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. And I secretly began to wonder if the problem was just me.

Productivity Problems

It wasn’t until many years later that I began to sort this all out. The problem was productivity itself, or rather how I tended to look at productivity at the time.

The old productivity paradigm was all about greater efficiency. How do you get more done in the same amount of time? It was the old factory model, applied everywhere. The goal was to increase throughput, rev up the line, speed the plow.

This model may work with machines, but it doesn’t work with humans. It crushes our spirits, leading to burnout or even worse. The Japanese even have a word for it: karoshi, or death from overworking.

Productivity and Freedom

What I eventually discovered was that the only kind of productivity worth pursuing isn’t simply about getting more done. It’s about getting the right things done with a specific goal in mind. Ultimately, real productivity leads to greater freedom.

That’s right, the new paradigm for productivity is about more freedom. It’s about how you can get more done by working less, so you can enjoy life and invest in the people and priorities that matter most. Doesn’t that sound better?

Any productivity gains worth striving for-what I call true productivity-should help enable us to enjoy each of these four freedoms:

  1. The freedom to focus-where all the important work is done (hence the name of my Free to Focus course).

  2. The freedom to be present-instead of thinking about work or other things when you’re with your family.

  3. The freedom to be spontaneous-to have room on your calendar for the fun and interesting opportunities that crop up.

  4. The freedom to do nothing-to shrug off the unrelenting busy-ness of life and just be.

The Italians have a phrase for this last freedom: dolce far niente or the sweetness of doing nothing. I experienced this firsthand on my recent sabbatical to Italy.

Gail and I had three weeks, unplugged from the office. I didn’t check my email or Slack. I didn’t create a daily task list. I didn’t have any meetings to attend.

It was glorious. And it was only possible because of the freedom real productivity makes possible.

Ultimately, real productivity leads to greater freedom.

-MICHAEL HYATT

Tweet Quote
Question: Which of these freedoms are most appealing to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.