Whether you are running a business, leading a team or building your own dream, it’s likely that your world is wrapped up in TO DO lists.
There are lots of ways to approach them of course. But one common theme is that they have a tendency to grow… and grow… and grow.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed – with the ironic result that your TO DO lists condemn you to inactivity rather than getting good shit done!
This is stopping you doing important work
It’s easy to see this as just a personal productivity issue. But I think it’s more important than just costing you a few hours here and there. I was recently working with clients on the ‘Hero On A Mission’ programme – a great framework from Business Made Simple University. It articulates your plan to live a life full of meaning and to put in place the milestones, goals and disciplines needed to turn that plan into a reality, rather than a ‘someday’ pipedream.
Key to the process is to be very clear on what is IN your plan and what is OUT. Clarity here is critical to ensuring you say ‘Yes’ to the right things and – equally importantly, ‘No’ to those things that will take you off track.
With both short-term and long-term consequences then, here are 5 things I have found are great NOT to do to progress.
I call this my TO DON’T list.
1. Procrastinate on perfectionism
Nothing kills productivity faster than our (self-imposed) need to be brilliant straight out of the gate. Author Malcolm Gladwell says, “I deal with writer’s block by first lowering my expectations. The trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magnificent — and when you don’t, panic sets in”.
You need to launch first and refine second – once you have received real-world feedback that what you are doing has value.
2. Forget to think laterally
Futurist William Gibson wrote, “the future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed”.
Chances are there are major advances already ‘out there’ that can be applied to your business or area of expertise. If you can identify and adapt them, you can accelerate your success. You just need to remember to get out of your own little world and look! Doing this has become both harder and, ironically, easier over the last 12 months.
3. Over-rely on the good opinion of others
Too often we over-filter our ideas before we launch them. We seek the security of positive feedback as a way of reducing the chances of our ideas failing. It’s a natural self-protection mechanism but one you should be wary of. If you aspire to be a market influencer and to make a difference (and you should!), you need to be bold.
Boldness is not found in listening to groupthink or parroting consensus. You need to select very carefully those you listen to.
4. Fear Failure
I remember a conversation I had with a successful international executive about the differences in doing business in different markets. We agreed that it’s easier to do business in Australia than in the UK. He felt the US was better again – in large part because of the different attitude to risk and failure.
I spent many years in the ‘Thought Leaders’ community and loved the teaching to plan for half of your projects to fail! You do so because 1. It’s a business reality and 2. It removes the stigma and negative mindsets (e.g. point 1).
Somewhat perversely, adopting a positive attitude to failure is a big step towards success.
5. Die Wondering
Unless you think you are ‘coming back’ as a cat, an Egyptian pharaoh or Meghan Markle, you’ll get one chance at making a difference (whatever that means for you). I’ve recently learned of friends who have been impacted by serious illness – each a reminder that nothing is forever.
If you are going to spend 40, 50, 60 hours a week working (and most of us are working harder than ever right now), doesn’t it make sense for us to strive to produce something we can be proud of? Again, the Hero On A Mission teaching applies. If you are to live a rich life of meaning and purpose, you need to have a vision big enough to dedicate your whole life to fulfilling.
Applying the ‘To Don’t’ principle to your world, what are 3-5 things you should start to stop doing?