Skip to content
Care and Feeding of the To Don’t List

The beauty of the process I have described is that by going through the daily review process, you start to build the foundation for a behavior change. As described earlier, the To Don’t List  is a fearless inventory of all the items you want to eliminate from your day. If you make activity identification a key part of your daily process then you are well on your way to making some Time Management breakthroughs.

As you identify items that are candidates for elimination, you should log them immediately on your To Don’t List. To be effective this list should contain the following information:

·    The short name of the activity to be eliminated
·    A longer description [ideally limited to 144 characters]
·    The number of hours you spend on that activity each year
·    The category the item belongs in

It is best to create this list in Excel, and then you can total up the number of hours that you have identified as candidates for elimination. If you copy this total to the top of the list, it will give you an up-to-date sense of the potential amount of time you could gain.

Many people find this motivational, and it becomes even more so if you add in the value of your time. If you multiply the number of hours that you have logged on the To Don’t List by the value of your time then you will come up with the value of the hours you could gain by eliminating items that are on the list.

I call this the Total Opportunity Value, and it can be a substantial number. Most of the To Don’t Lists that I see have at least 200 hours a year of time that could be eliminated. If the value of your time is $350 an hour then your total opportunity value is $70,000. Assuming that you are only able to figure out how to eliminate 70% of the items on your To Don’t List you would be generating additional time that could be worth $50,000 to you.

The methodology for collecting the activity elimination data is very straightforward, though it does require daily activity. This is a behavior change that may require an accountability structure, and you can accomplish that through consulting or peer pressure in the workshop environment. Once the data is collected, the steps need to eliminate the inappropriate activities are relatively simple, and execution has every chance of happening.



Connect With Us

Time Survey

My Biggest Time Management Issue Is:

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.

Most Popular Articles

Did you know ?

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.