Why You Should Consider Keeping a ‘Don’t-Do List’

Keep A Don't Do List

By now, we are all very familiar with the importance of the standard to-do list (or, as I posted here, to-do lists).

But have you ever considered keeping a Don’t-Do List?

Such a list isn’t very popular but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. While to-do lists help you prioritize your tasks, a don’t-do list will help you stop wasting time. According to a survey conducted by Salary.com, 69% of the people they surveyed admitted to wasting time at work on a daily basis. That adds up to a lot of hours.

Don’t-do lists aren’t particularly hard or revolutionary but they do keep you honest.

What Do You Spend The Most Time Doing?

To get yourself on the right track, first make a list of the things that you spend the most time doing. Then prioritize them starting with most productive to least productive. You now have the start of a don’t do list. Take the last 5 items on your list. How much time do you spend doing these things? Can you stop doing them? What will happen? If you try hard enough or think outside the box, you can probably find some way around them, while saving time.

What Tasks Can You Delegate?

A don’t-do list is not necessarily a list of things that are unimportant, but rather a list of items not exclusively worth your time. Therefore, the don’t-do list can also include items that need to get done, but not necessarily by you. If you want to be a productive worker or a efficient leader, don’t have the mentality of “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” Instead, learn to delegate. Not everything needs to be done by you. In very simple terms – it’s worth it to pay someone $10 to mow your lawn instead of wasting an hour doing it yourself.

What is a complete waste of your time?

Think about the things that are a complete waste of your time, big or small. Do you really need to do them? We often get into a routine or habit of doing something and we continue to do so just because. If you can’t identify your gain, it’s probably not worth your time. This might sound crazy but just stop doing it. See what happens. You’ll still have the chance to rework and tweak. But you might be surprised to find that not doing something you normally do doesn’t hurt your productivity at all. It all depends on what it is.

Are you ready for a ‘digital cleanse’?

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If you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with technology. On one hand, it can make me more productive, more efficient, and more connected. On the other hand, it can be a source of digital clutter that contributes to lost productivity and more stress.

The key is ensuring that you control your technology, rather than letting it control you.

Here’s a 5-day challenge I urge you to take to wrest back control of your digital tools:

Day One: Clean up your inbox.

For day one of your digital cleanse, take it easy to start. Cleaning up your inbox will probably take you the most time, but it’s also the easiest thing to do. On your first day, respond to all outstanding emails. Once you have that out of the way, start going through your inbox and deleting anything you don’t need. As a general rule of thumb, if you haven’t referred back to an email in 3 months, you probably don’t need it.

Day Two: Organize your inbox.

On day two, once you’ve gotten rid of all the junk in your inbox, start organizing what you have left. Create folders for yourself so that you can file emails away. Your inbox should only consist of emails you still need to read or emails you still need to respond to. Don’t forget to archive old emails so that you save space in your inbox.

Day Three: File your documents & rearrange your desktop.

After you are done organizing your inbox, your next step will be to organize your computer or laptop. Start in your documents folder. Take a quick glance and delete any documents or images you know you will not need but don’t spend too much time on this. Documents don’t take up much space on a hard drive. Next, create categorizations or folders (ie. personal, work, family, etc). Once you have folders that can be easily managed, file everything away. Do the same with your desktop.

Day Four: Tidy up your social media accounts.

We spend so much time on social media so don’t forget to spend some time organizing it. Start on facebook – do you get emails about Farmville and Candy Crush everyday? Take a look at your alerts and notifications and turn off anything you don’t want. Next, take a look at who you are following on Twitter and Instagram. Unfollow anyone you no longer want to keep up with. This will keep you feeds clear for the updates you actually do want to read.

Day Five: Tackle your mobile devices.

Finally, tackle all your mobile devices, including your phone and your tablets. Back up your phones so that you can save all your pictures. Delete any apps you no longer need.

With this 5-day cleanse, you are on your way to a healthier digital lifestyle!