By Jeff Haden
If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns — in productivity, in improved relationships, and in personal well-being — from adding these items to your not to-do list:
Every day, promise yourself you won’t:
- Wait until you’re sure you will succeed.
You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best.
And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.
- Multitask during a meeting.
The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting, if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, spot opportunities to build bridges, and find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter. It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying. And you’ll be the only one succeeding — on multiple levels.
- Check your phone while you’re talking to someone.
You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game. You’ve tried the you-think-sly-but-actually-really-obvious downwards glance. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing. Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it. Want to stand out? (Especially if you’re a boss?) Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone. It doesn’t notice when you aren’t paying attention. Other people? They notice. And they care.
- Think about people who don’t make any difference in your life.
Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you. But your family, your friends, your employees — all the people that really matter to you — are not. Give them your time and attention. They are the ones who deserve it.
- Let yourself be distracted by notifications.
You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer. If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set — instead of a schedule you let everyone else set — play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening.
And then get right back to work. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.
They can wait. You, and what is truly important to you, cannot.
- Let your past dictate your future.
Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go. Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know — especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you… unless you let it.
- Talk behind someone’s back.
If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip). If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.
Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.
- Say “yes” when you really mean “no.”
Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, and especially friends is really hard. Yet you can’t do everything. You shouldn’t do everything. In fact, success is often based more on what you decide not to do than on what you do.
Besides, rarely will saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people understand (and if they don’t should you care too much about what they think?)
When you say no to something you don’t want to do, at least you only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you can feel bad for a long time — or at least for as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want do in the first place.