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The NOT To-Do List

By Liz Scott

If you're drowning in a never-ending to-do list then try out this extraordinarily simple time-management technique. If you're looking for a quick effective exercise for your client - this is it.
The to-do list

Everyone I've coached has always got some kind of 'to-do' list on the go. The trouble with these kinds of lists is that for every item you cross off the list, another two end up on the bottom. To-do lists can be incredibly dis-heartening. Some people even write things on their list that they've already done, just so they can show it as crossed off.

Why the 'to-do' list doesn’t work

The trouble is that we rarely only do the things on our 'to-do' list. What tends to happen is that when seemingly 'important' demands pop up, we do those instead.The Time Management Matrix is a great way to help sift through priorities.

How many times have you stopped to answer the phone to a friend, rather then crack on with your 'to-do' list items? Or maybe you've suddenly spied your desk needs tidying, or the windows cleaning and these tasks takes priority. Often people aren't just tackling a 'to-do' list, they are also fielding a whole load of other 'stuff' in addition to their lists.

The Not ‘to-do’ list

A NOT to-do list is a simple and effective answer. Write out a list of things that you won't do the next day and put it somewhere prominent. Think of all the distractions that get in the way and write them down. It might look something like this
  • I won’t answer the phone if a friend calls during office hours.
  • I won't open each email as it 'pings' into my in-box
  • I won't open my door until I've written my report
  • I won't meet my friend at lunch-time as we always over-run
  • I am not going to work later than 6pm
  • I am not going to eat lunch at my desk.

Clients often bemoan how busy they are. Asking them to create a 'not to-do' list is a great way to identify areas that get in the way of their productivity. Try it out yourself and see how helpful it can actually be.

about the author
Liz Scott is a successful Leadership Coach working across the South West. Her clients include head teachers, leadership teams and the police. Liz is also co-founder of Coaching Connect

more info
The Time Management Matrix
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