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Identifying To Don’t List Items

There are a number of different ways you can identify actions to go on your To Don’t List. It is important that you make the identification of items that are candidates for removal a top priority in your day. If you can make this an ingrained habit, then you can make consistent progress towards meeting your Time Gain Goal.

The first step is to create a process to identify and log things that you want to eliminate from your day, and this doesn’t have to be time-consuming at all. The key here, as with so many things, is that you must do it in writing and you must only log the activity and not start thinking about the solution. If you don't separate them, you simply won't be driven to take action and the identification will never lead to elimination.

Looking at the tasks in your day through the prism of the value of your time is a good start point. You can also use the Important and Urgent Grid. but if you are going to be successful you need a proactive system of some kind.

Many experts say that the “Rolls Royce” approach is to keep a daily log in fifteen minute increments for two to four weeks and identify in detail how you are spending your time. I don’t recommend trying to do this because it can be far too easily derailed by the Tyranny of the Urgent…..and most of the people that I work with will never complete it anyway! 

More to the point, the comprehensive time log is cumbersome, and even when produced, it is a one off process rather than a lifetime behavior change. In addition it doesn’t focus on activity elimination as well as some other practical methods you can use without spending much time on the exercise.

The top three techniques I recommend are: 

To Do List Extension: Add an extra column to your To Do List headed E (for Elimination).  Each day as you produce your list, review it for all items that are below your pay grade and put an x in column E to identify them.   

Daily Review: At the end of each day, take five minutes to review what you did that day it and ask yourself "what did I do today that I'd rather not have in my day?" The Time Edge has a daily review form that our clients use.

Reacting: Whenever you find yourself doing something that you feel you shouldn't, write it down there and then. Time Edge clients use the online logging function or you can download the Time Edge Activity Elimination Form to do this.

You should ideally use all three methods. As you do this, it goes without saying that you should free your mind of all the reasons why activities cannot be eliminated and allow yourself to dream. As soon as you have identified the items to be eliminated, you should put them on your To Don’t List to produce an inventory of elimination candidates.



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Time Management Tips

  • When somebody interrupts you when you are busy, don't let them interrupt your train of thought. Ask them to come back and see you at a specific time – you may be surprised that they actually figure out the answer and don't come back to ask you.

  • Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.

  • It is all too easy to waste time on phone calls. Keep an egg timer next to the phone to keep track of exactly how long you are talking. It will keep the time you are spending in the forefront of your mind and will help you handle the call more efficiently.

  • Never go to the bank to deposit checks, it is a Time Bandit way below your pay grade, and claiming it is therapeutic and gets you out of the office is deluding yourself. Send somebody else!  Better still, get a check scanning machine...and make sure the bank pays!

  • Organize your office so the door isn't in your immediate line of vision. The big payoff is that people can't appear at your door, hover, catch your eye and distract you. If you make it harder to interrupt you, people may figure out answers themselves rather than asking you.

  • When you have to give out an e-mail address to somebody who's going to send you things you don't want in your inbox, give them a special "junk" e-mail address. Then set up a rule so that everything to that address goes to a folder you review on your timetable.

  • When somebody interrupts you to ask you a question always reply with a question back. Ask them how they would deal with it, and make them think proactively rather than just relying on you. A good technique is to ask: "If I wasn't available today, what would you do?"

  • If your key customers expect you to answer the phone at all times, get an Internet phone line and give them a "VIP" phone number to call. Set it up with a unique ring on your system and you'll know that calls on that line are from your most important customers.

  • Most people have a “To Do” list to record the tasks they need to "Get Done", but it doesn't help identify what you shouldn't do yourself. For that you need a “To Don’t” list. Identify the culprits, put them on the list and defend your time by assigning them elsewhere. 

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone now as the most dangerously effective of all Time Bandits. Turn off your e mail alert and check your e-mail only four times a it on your schedule not the schedule of the people who are interrupting your more productive work.

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone as the most dangerously effective of all time wasters. The worst thing is the e mail alert that pops up on your computer screen. Don't let other people interrupt you in this way and take back control of your time by turning the alert off

  • When somebody interrupts you while sitting at your desk, stand up. It changes the pace of the interaction and sends a message to the interrupter that they have invaded your time. The more you can send this message, the more effective you will become at protecting your time.

  • When somebody comes to you with an issue they should figure out themselves, don't allow yourself to relieve them of the burden and take it on yourself. Instead of saying "leave it with me" when this happens, say "never delegate upwards" and ask them for their solution.

  • Entrepreneurs wear so many of the hats in their business that many of the tasks they carry out are at a level way below the real value of their time. Are you working below your pay grade by not handing off menial tasks that should be done by others?

  • When you are hiring new employees, ask candidates about their time management abilities. The best employees are those that can prioritize their work and handle interruptions, so be sure to ask relevant questions to probe in those areas so that you hire somebody who has those skills.

  • Email has become a huge time-waster and taking control of your Inbox is becoming more critical than ever. The ideal state is only to have things in your Inbox that are important, urgent or time sensitive, and to put everything else automatically into folders using Rules governing what happens when they come in. I’ve been using Outlook Rules for a number of years to sort specific topics, but I recently came across a new rule that makes a dramatic difference.

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Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.