Do you have a NOT TO DO list?


Everyone has a TO DO list

You don't have to waste a lot of time in book stores or talking with friends to hear that the single best tool to improve your productivity is a good to do list. Well I'm calling BS. I don't think it's the best tool or best strategy, when it comes to helping you become a high performer.

It's not what you need to do that's critical.
It's what you need to not do that's critical.

Everyone's always surprised

When I talk about delegation in public speaking engagements I regularly mention the IBM study I read (a long time ago now) that suggested it was worth delegating if a subordinate could accomplish any given task in less than 10x the time it would take a supervisor.

Ten times is a big number. I struggle if someone is going to take 2x longer than I would. I want to take it back and just do it myself.

But doing something, just because I can, isn't strategic.

Instead, I need to learn to delegate. It helps my teams and it helps me. And that means I need to constantly be aware of what I am committing to not do.

How we get distracted

I've discovered that the biggest things that derail productivity in my day are those things that

  • I know how to do
  • I like doing
  • I get praise when I do them well
  • Others could do
  • Take me away from what only I can do

Let's agree on something right now. There are some things that only you (or I) can do.

We have the skill, experience, voice and access to do the thing that only we can do. But when we get focused on something else – with anything else – we've stepped out of the realm of high performance and are now hanging out with a group that could only be called “distracted.”

We're stealing opportunities

It's not just that we're distracted. The truth is that we're also robbing our teams of opportunities to learn and grow. When we do it all we're naturally limiting the opportunities that we could have been creating for others to learn and grow. We know it's not good, but we keep doing it.

So how do we get past it? How do we ensure we're creating opportunities for our staff (to learn and grow) while also focusing on delivering world class service to our customers?

Easy. Create a NOT TO DO list.

My NOT TO DO list

I love Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. And my team, filled with engineers, doesn't have a clue how to use it. So they send me images to resize. Or images that need new titles (or other text) on them. It's easy. It's fast. It lets me open up Adobe products I may not have used in a bit. And my guys love that I can do it, and do it quickly.

But there are others in our organization that have the tools and could do it. So I've recently put it on my NOT TO DO list.

I also love playing with networks and hardware. It's from the old days of building computers by hand, I'm sure. And we have hosting accounts with Rackspace,, VPS.NET and others.

But I shouldn't be messing with any of those. There's no need. So until I hear of a need, it's on my NOT TO DO list.

I could go on with all the things on my NOT TO DO list, but that's not the point. I think by now  you get the concept. That's the easy part. The hard part is creating your own list. Because only you know what gets in your way. Only you know what derails you. Only you know what woos you, even if it shouldn't.

So go get started. Define what you aren't willing to do, and find others who will do it (even if they take longer).

What's on yours?

Go ahead, comment below and tell me what you're putting on your NOT TO DO list.