Every day we wake up with a choice--what do I work on today?

This singular question can yield great accomplishment or major disappointment at the end of the day. My worst days are when I finally get to my desk--alone--to start my task list and it is 3 in the afternoon. Where did my day go, I ask. What a waste of the day I mutter to myself.

When my daughters were kids and Saturday rolled around and it was time for chores, we would all sit and discuss what tasks we wanted each to do. Immediately after they would go spend an hour making the most beautiful list of tasks. We were then lucky if 1 or 2 got completed over the next hour. They had used all of their energy in creating the list.

Do a search and you will see countless articles that propose one or more of the following guidelines:

  1. Make a list
  2. Decide what's important on that list
  3. Re-Order the list by importance
  4. Work the list from the top down
  5. Give yourself room for new crisis tasks to intervene.

I don't know about you, but you do not need to be a rocket-scientist to figure out this process. Even the worst execution of this should yield a decently productive day. But to what end?

I believe that daily productivity is all about you and the goal(s) you set for yourself. The problem with a list and the ranking of that list is that it enables if not encourages you the opportunity to be overwhelmed. I might identify 3 of the 10 tasks that are most important and gallantly embark on fulfilling those tasks. We all know that we should be lucky to get 2 of those completed while lurking in our minds are that third task as well as the fourth through tenth.

A story attributed to Warren Buffet caught my eye, which crystalizes my approach--the Not-To-Do List. This list compromises the issues, tasks, fires that I am not going to handle today. Or this week. Or ever. Giving yourself permission as a person (and as a team) to not worry about an issue can be unbelievably freeing.

Imagine the load/burden you can take off of your mind when discarding those tasks. The operative word is discard, not de-prioritize those tasks. Discard them until you complete those handful of tasks that you do care about.

Try giving yourself permission to not do something and see what happens.

Published on: Jan 22, 2016