Have You Ever Thought of Making a “To Don’t” List

Posted by: on Jan 22, 2016 | No Comments

It’s that time of  year when we talk of New Year resolutions, fresh initiatives and new resolve.  You may have a new calendar, productivity app, notebook and pen – whatever – in which you are studiously making lists, carving out your “big rocks” (Trademark Steven Covey!) or generally apportioning your time.  That’s great – in the past we’ve looked at productivity,  meeting effectiveness and spoken about time management on our podcasts.  We’ve also let you know about Discardia – and this post is inspired by some of that thinking about moving stuff out of your life that doesn’t make it awesome.

This January I invite you to make a different type of To Do list – A “Ditch”, or a “To Don’t” list.  Here’s how:

1                 Write down all your current projects, proposals and plans. Include the stuff you are doing, the stuff you want to do but haven’t got round to and the stuff you are supposed to be doing but aren’t.  Ideally write each element on a post it so that you can see it. There will be loads:  maybe not 100 but easily 20 – 40 depending on the size of the organisation or team.  This is a great exercise to do as a work team (or family, come to that).

2                 Look at the whole list – the first sift is to look at each task and remove items where the answer to any one of the following three questions is yes:

  1. Can someone else do it better?
  2. Can someone else do it well enough to be fit for purpose?
  3. Has this task become obsolete or out of date?

That should whittle down the list – delegate or give away (yes! Give away!) the ideas, projects or initiatives under a. and b. above and then put those for c. on a new sheet entitled To Don’t.

3                 Then for the remaining post its, do another sift – which of the items on the post-its don’t reflect your values (personal or business as appropriate) or brand?  Before adding them to the To Don’t list you’ll need to ask another couple of questions:

  1. What can we do so that the task/project/ activity is congruent with our values?
  2. Can we do that/ is it worth it?
  3. For those where the answer to b. above is “No” – they join the others on the To Don’t list.  For those where it’s yes, there will be new actions generated on some more post its for the To Do list.

4                 Now with your shortened (I hope) To Do list you can prioritise.  There are lots of models or ways of doing this – the classic “product portfolio” (Known as the “Boston Matrix” – which looks at market share and growth potential as a way of identifying how to allocate your resources:

Market Growth

Or you can look at a simple 2 x 2 matrix around Effort and Reward –   Market Growth (1)However you do it – you should end up with a To Do list that is more tailored to your current circumstances, strengths and values.  But do write up or document the To Don’t list in some way – with reasons if you like – because it’s easy to forget that you’ve stopped doing it.  Especially if you have had an idea or project lurking in your psyche for some time!

I’ll confess the idea of a To Don’t list isn’t mine – I think I first came across it from Alan Weiss.  It’s a really valuable tool where businesses can take stock for a moment, especially when busy, and critically evaluate the value and potential or their activities.  After a session looking at this, one client wrote to us saying:  “Thank you for a fantastic session and supporting us with our future strategy.  It was a day full of critical thinking and value which has already helped to move us forward. We started today much more proactively. Talking about the ‘to don’t list was so liberating!”

Make your own “To Don’t” list and enjoy the feeling of freedom that it brings.

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