How to save time with a to don’t list

After abandoning the to do list we call out the beginning of to don’t lists. Exactly, we are going to make a list of task and ideas that we won’t bother ourselves with anymore. Why should we do this?

Everybody is extremely busy these days. Especially meeting planners often complain how they try to keep their heads above the water, hurrying from one appointment to the next. As Meredith Fineman explains in a very inspiring article, many of us wear ‘busy’ as a badge of honour: it makes us look important, demanded and successful. But the reality is that we miss precious quality time, because we are not working efficiently, pick up work from others or spend too much time on unnecessary tasks.

Fineman’s suggestion is to work smart instead of (just) hard by managing our time more efficiently. The first crucial step is to detect and delete dispensable tasks from our schedules. By putting such tasks on a to don’t list, we remind ourselves to spend no time on them anymore. This means, we won’t work on them, we won’t talk bout them, we won’t even think about them. Here is how you make a to don’t list.

1. Check your daily schedule

Write down all the activities you perform each day. Then, go through the list and answer the following questions for each activity:

  • does it make me happy?
  • is it essential and/or helpful to my career?
  • does it have a good cost/benefit ratio?

2. Scrap and delete

If you can’t answer at least two of these questions with yes, delete the task from your schedule and put it on your to don’t list.

3. Stop doing it

From now on, you won’t spend a second on tasks on your to don’t list. You should not even think about them.

It might hurt you to abandon some tasks. I used to write a short column for a small local newspaper published by friends of mine. The writing cost me precious hours and I was not paid for my work. Deleting this task felt like deserting my friends. Finally, they were quite fine with it and I have more time for myself. You will see that you won’t miss the extra workload.

Now it’s your turn

Do you check your speaker’s slides before his presentation? Do you clean each item in the meeting room twice? Do you take over tasks from the caterer, the waitress or the CEO? Which tasks would you put on your to don’t list? I’d love to hear your story.


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