Let’s just say I have a complicated relationship with to-do lists. And that’s putting it lightly. Without to-do lists, I wouldn’t be able to organize all the things I want to do and how I want to do them. That’s how I keep track of my various tasks and projects, ensuring I meet deadlines and deliver as promised. By making a to-do list each day (and week and month for that matter), I can “dump” that information out of my head so I can reallocate those mental resources to the actual things I’m doing.
But, of course, to-do lists aren’t all peachy-keen either. There is almost nothing more tyrannical than staring down at an incomplete to-do list at the end of the day, almost every day. Maybe I’m just too optimistic about how much I think I can accomplish each day. Maybe I’m not alone in that. I’m probably not alone in that. But I don’t think I would really be able to function as a professional without to-do lists as part of my regular routine.
As I made my way around the Internet, I came across a concept called a “do not do list.” These might be a list of items or tasks that you forbid yourself to do, at least for a period of time. You’re not allowed to check Facebook, for example, until you finish writing this blog post. Alternatively, you can set up a list of items that are the *only* things you’re allowed to do if you feel like procrastinating. If you don’t want to write that blog post, then you have to go clean up the basement.
Here’s another good one:
The Not to Do List
The way this one works, and it’s probably something you’ll only want to do periodically as it’s way too time-consuming to keep up as a regular habit, is that you keep a journal of all the things you do over the course of a regular work week. You wake up. You brew a cup of coffee and make yourself some breakfast. You turn on the lights to your home office. You turn on your computer and check your email. And so on and so forth.
At the end of the week, you review this list that you’ve created and try to ascertain the items that you’d like to remove for the following week. The objective here is that you seek to be more efficient, more effective, and more focused with how you choose to spend your time. You decide on what you can automate, outsource, or eliminate from your life.
When you’re able to rescue and reclaim all this time lost on things that you’d rather not be doing or that you’re simply wasting time on doing, you can then reinvest that time into the things you actually want to do or the things that are actually making a difference in your life.
The Value of Time
As counter-intuitive as it may sound initially, spending more money can actually earn you more money if you approach it the right way. When I decided to self-publish my book using CreateSpace, I decided to outsource the formatting and the book cover design. I could have learned how to do that stuff myself, but I would have wasted hours of my time and untold amounts of mental energy. And I probably would’ve ended up with an inferior product too.
This line of thinking can be applied to the smallest and most mundane of decisions you make on a day-to-day basis too. When my friend was telling me about how much he’d been using a food delivery service, I started to question how much money he was “wasting” on delivery fees; these were for restaurants that didn’t offer free delivery. But he works from home and doesn’t own a car (he generally doesn’t need one). If he didn’t use this service, he’d be wasting so much time getting out of the house; walking, biking or otherwise getting himself to the restaurant; and then coming all the way back to eat. Instead, he pays a few bucks for the convenience and he can keep working. I’m certain he effectively earns more than a few bucks a hour.
Let Someone Else Do It
Think about how else you can be more effective and intentional with your time. Maybe it’s worth your while to pay someone to clean your house, buy your groceries, do your taxes, sell your stuff on eBay, or book your vacation. This is why personal assistants are so increasingly popular. Pay someone else to do the things you don’t want to do (or can’t do), so you can do what you’re actually good at and want to do.
“Even if I have to pay somebody $100 an hour,” says Millionaire Success Habits author Dean Graziosi, “if I can make more than that by focusing on something else, then I get a return on the investment by outsourcing it.”
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