I love to-do lists. I don’t scratch them out on sticky notes and throw them away at the end of the day. Instead I keep a spiral notebook and write down every detail, checking things off when they are complete. It’s a nice way to keep a record of where you’ve been. And you can also go back and refer to notes if you have questions in the weeks and months ahead.
And while I’m a firm believer in creating written to-do lists, I also have started keeping a not-to-do list.
I heard about this concept a while back, and have really come to appreciate what it does for your productivity. The idea is to eliminate the activities that are costing you a ton of time during your workday, yet really aren’t providing you with any reward. Yep, they’re basically the time wasters.
The easiest way to find your time wasters is to sit down with your monthly to-do lists, your monthly calendars, and any other tools you use to track your time during work hours. Where did the biggest chunks of time go? Were they productive?
While every business owner is going to have their own areas of concern, there are several areas that seem to affect small businesses in general. Take a look at this list and see if you can see yourself in any of them. I’ve set them up to be in not-to-do list form.
1. Do not answer unexpected phone calls.
The world runs by caller id. When the phone rings, if it doesn’t ring with its own unique ringtone, you glance down to see who it is. Then its decision time.
If it’s during normal work hours and it may be a potential customer, answer it. But if you’re in the middle of a project, talking with a client/friend/co-worker, or its after hours, let it go to voice mail. Have a great message that will provide the caller with the appropriate information. And consider getting a better phone system that can allow you to do different things with the message, such as send you a copy to your email so you can read it at your convenience.
2. Do not leave your email program open and check it all day long.
One of the biggest distractions outside of the phone is your email. That little “ding” when an incoming message appears can throw you completely off track and quickly scrambles your priorities. Every email has the potential to delay what you are currently working on by minutes, hours or even sometimes days. Instead, set up two or three times per day to check in and see what needs your attention. I usually spend my first hour or so working on my own project and check email when I’ve accomplished my first set of to-do’s. Then I check in when I’m back from lunch, and again before I shut down for the day. If I’m expecting something important I may check in more frequently. Otherwise three times per day is more than enough. Just because you have access to it with your phone, iPad or other portable device doesn’t mean you have to do it. [Read more…]