As readers of my blog and book Surviving and Thriving in Seminary know, I think quite a bit about productivity. And finishing a PhD while working full time and having a family shows that I'm not half-bad at it :-) In this short post I want to talk about a new type of list that you need to have. It is called the "Not-to-Do List."
Having task lists is very important I think. I follow loosely the very popular GTD method by David Allen in his very influential productivity book Getting Things Done. For my to-do list, I use an app called 2Do (Mac and iOS), but there are quite literally hundreds of great to-do apps out there, so just take your pick. To-do lists are great, and they keep you on task and moving forward.
But...the problem for many is that we're getting too busy. And, if you are like me, you are a people pleaser. When someone asks you for a favor, you like to do it because it is helpful for that other person. Even if you're not a people pleaser, tasks and assignments may often get dumped on you and you wonder "why I am I the one doing this?"
For those of you struggling with this, a solution is a not-to-do list. This list may be a permanent thing, or may change from season to season. As a seminary prof, mine tends to change by the semester. In this list, you basically need to put those things which you will not do (it may be something you really want to do, but need to hold off on) as well as those tasks which may get defaulted to you.
As an employee, you of course need to be careful with this. I hate filling out expense claim reports, but that is something I am required to do. You cannot go up to your boss and just declare that this task is now on your not-to-do list!
Having said that, you may indeed need to talk to your boss or supervisor about some tasks that are eating up your time. Think about it this way: you have been hired to excel at your job, which entails excellence in certain areas. But if secondary tasks keep distracting you from things that only you can do, then it is something that can potentially go on that not-to-do list.
While the not-to-do list can help you to focus and free up some time for the important things, it doesn't make it easy. It may involve some difficult conversations, and for people-pleasers it may involve facing those looks of disappointment.
photo credit: Mufidah Kassalias via photopin cc