This article is originally published on Democrat & Chronicle, a USA Today network
I’ve been trying a new way to get things done: the not-to-do list.
Here’s my logic: It’s all about focus. The things we decide not to do will save time and energy for the things we care about.
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
Here are a few items on my not-to-do list:
Don’t answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers
Most likely, they’re from spammers. If it’s important phone calls they’ll leave a message.
Personally, I respect people who ignore ringing phones during a conversation and never break eye contact or lose concentration.
These days, most people have become Pavlov's dog. When their phone rings, they reach for it instantly without thinking.
Don’t answer phone calls or attend meetings with no clear agenda
They’re time vampires.
A guy I worked with used to call me about EVERYTHING, those phone calls became constant interruptions. As a result, I was having trouble getting things done. Every “5-minute” phone call he promised turned into an-hour long conversation, in an unpleasant way.
It had to stop.
So I politely told him that I’d appreciate scheduled phone calls. He ignored me. Random phone calls were still pouring in.
So I started letting his phone calls go straight into my voicemail, then email him afterwards:
I just noticed that I missed your phone call. Would you mind telling me what you wanted to talk about? I will respond at my earliest convenience.
I will call you back at XXX (time) or XXX (time). Please pick a time that works for you via Google Calendar. I have about 15 minutes.
Nine times out of ten he called me for random things and never had a clear agenda. Suddenly my emails had “trained” him to think twice before calling me and to respect my schedule. It worked well.
Same method with meetings.
Even if instantly responding is a big part of your job, you can still log out of your IM (instant messaging) customer for a short period of time and get important work done. Then log back in.
Sometimes, your boss (if you have one) may not appreciate you not responding right away and may say things like “it’s bad customer service” or “that’s not how we do things here”, this may be happening even if constant interruptions in actuality make you less productive and result in worse service to your customers.
Here’s what you can do: don’t try to convince your boss right away. Instead, start with baby steps. Say, try not responding instantly a half hour per day (depending on your situation) for a few weeks, and show your boss the positive results. Once you have the “proof of concept”, you can leverage it into bigger steps.
Bonus Point: Put people who don’t respect your time on a VERY short leash.
People will show you who they are – believe them the first time.
Don’t take your cellphone everywhere you go
It terrifies me when I see a group of friends having dinner together turning into a group of friends checking their phones together. No conversation whatsoever. If I want “virtual” friendship, I’d spend all day on Facebook. When I hang out with someone, I expect real human interactions. This is why I stopped taking my phone everywhere I go.
Be social, but don’t waste time on 10 different “social networks”.
My thoughts: One way to focus on the things we want to do is to remove all other distractions.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
If you were to make a not-to-do list, what would be on that list?
If you’re trying this not-to-do list method, how many hours has it saved you every week?
Share your comments, thoughts or results with me. You can email me at email@example.com with subject line “My Not-To-Do List”, I read (not necessarily reply) to every message I receive.
P.S. If your Inbox is overloading with emails, I shared a system to deal with it once for all. You can find it here. (Or Google “How to deal with email overload Siwei Dodge”)