“To do or not to do…” – SCN Encourager 5/31/2013

We’re not alone. It’s crazy busy for everyone now.

As I dash from place to place – and from project to project – I tell myself that “it’s just a busy time of year.”

With numerous high school graduation events and districtwide end-of-school-year activities on my list, I tell myself that my frantic pell-mell pace can’t be helped. My schedule stopped being anything I could control long ago.

I tell myself these things so I don’t feel so bad about not injecting some discipline into my planning.

“With so much out of your control…what would be the point?” I ask myself reasonably.

“There’s no point in trying anything different,” I respond to myself realistically. “It is what it is.”

Well, a couple of new articles have now caused me to re-examine the self-talk advice my alter-ego has been feeding me. (Even though it’s free…) 

The first bit of wisdom to attack my litany of excuses comes from a blog called “zenhabits: breathe.”  

The author of “zenhabits: breathe” is Leo Babauta. You might find his “9 Rules for a Simpler Day” essay helpful as well.

Babauta’s call to “create space” especially resonated with me. It’s much better than my own longtime practice to “take up space.” Big difference.

As beneficial as Babauta’s nine point “to do” list is, so is this “Not todo” list created by entrepreneur and writer Tim Ferriss.

I came across this list in a piece on the “99U” website, where writer Herbert Lui reprints it with the tagline: What you don’t do determines what you can do.

The Not-to-Do list from Tim Ferriss –

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers

2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time

4. Do not let people ramble

5. Do not check e-mail constantly — “batch” and check at set times only

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize

8. Do not carry a cellphone or “Crackberry” 24/7

9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

Hmmmm. Both lists provide quick and valuable self-assessments about your choices and how they shape your calendar.

Both lists should also come with the familiar “do not try this at home” disclaimer, though.

At breakfast my wife unfolded a “honey do” list she wanted to talk over. I told myself – via an alter-ego trying to give good advice for once – that this was the perfect time to tell her about Herbert Lui’s tagline.

“You know, dear,” I said, “I read an article by a productivity expert last night. He said that ‘what you don’t do determines what you can do.’ I say we approach your list from this angle.”

Oops. Big mistake. Babauta’s and Ferriss’ lists are still fantastic – but keep them under wraps until you’re back at work.

Trust me on this one.

Tom Page, SCN




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