Make Your “not going to do it anymore” List

There is some combination of sun angle, crisp blue sky, football games on TV, and other signals of fall that triggers in me an epigenetic response that it is time to start learning again. School is now in session. No matter how long it has been since you sat in the classroom, there is that itch to do something new.

You may be thinking of a “to do” list. I think it was my brother who first suggested to me the value of making a list of the things you are NOT going to do anymore. Perhaps this is a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. It is a little like clearing off your desk before you start a new project. Being clear what you are going to stop doing creates some space to do new things. It also helps you avoid saying “yes” when you mean “no” to those requests you have been meaning to saying “no” to for a long time.

For example, if you are an entrepreneur,  you might stop taking contracts for work that has no potential for follow-on work or referral. If you are a manager, you might stop looking at your email on Sunday night when the net result is that you ruin a perfectly good night’s sleep with things you can’t do anything about until Monday morning. You might stop saying yes to lunch invitations from people who want to sell you something you don’t need. You might stop jumping up to help people fix the copier outside your door.  It takes practice to make the “I don’t do this anymore” list,  but it’s worthwhile practice.

One year, when I had just finished making my “not going to do it anymore” list, someone came to my office door and asked me whether I would do a one-time facilitation of a group strategy meeting.   I looked at my list and said, “no”  because it says here that I am no longer facilitating one-time strategy meetings. I had made this choice because I wanted to focus on my commitment to continuous coaching of our innovation teams on projects that were critical to our business.  I said “no, thank you.”  It was quite liberating. I ended up doing more of what I wanted to be doing and working on things I thought really added value to my business.  I even had more time now that I was saying “no.”  I recommended other people to do the things I wasn’t doing anymore which they appreciated.

When you make your list, pay particular attention to things you might be really good at, but you still need to stop doing them in order to move forward with your own growth and development. As I often tell people who ask me for career advice,  “Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you have to do it the rest of your life.”

One response to “Make Your “not going to do it anymore” List”

  1. Great advice! I remember how transformative it was for me to commit – as much as I practically could – to stop multi-tasking, but I never took the “won’t do” list much further than that… until now 🙂