To Do or To Don’t?

A couple years ago I started using Trello to help me plan and organize my time. If you aren’t familiar with it, Trello is a free tool similar to a Kanban board, allowing you to create some lists and add things to those lists. Then you can freely drag items between lists. When you first get started with it, your board could end up looking like this:trello

Tomorrow never came!

Not long after I started using it, I ended up creating another list to the left and calling it Tomorrow, intended for things that I meant to get to tomorrow. The problem I had was that I would rarely pull things off that list and do them. I’d get into the office in the morning, see things on the Tomorrow list, and say to myself “Well it’s technically still today – right?”. Tomorrow never came!

But sadly this weighed heavily on me, and the intention of doing those things eventually kept me from clearing them out of my head. I had this dark cloud hanging over me, with a constant reminder of it any time I looked at my Trello board.

One day when I was feeling particularly annoyed about the giant list that had accumulated (it wouldn’t even fit on the screen anymore – I had to scroll to even see it all), I had that “ah ha” moment. I renamed it from Tomorrow to To Don’t. Why? Because I realized that after the weeks or months that some of those things had been sitting on my Tomorrow list, nothing had happened. Most of them weren’t even relevant anymore. That’s right – I didn’t do them and no one noticed or cared. They were just busy work, pulling me away from my otherwise productive days. And the best part was that the weight had been lifted off my shoulders – I was actively acknowledging the fact that there were things that I would not do.

Deciding what not to do can be tricky. I don’t want my actions to have the side effect of others losing productivity, so I always think carefully about what not to do. I sometimes even ask them, “Hey do you really need me to do this?” Often times the answer is no. I also let people know when I won’t be doing something, since a quick two-minute email is still a lot better than spending an hour or two doing something. And finally if something must get done but I don’t have the time or desire to do it, I delegate.

Learning to delegate is a an important topic. So important in fact, that I’ll be blogging about it in the next couple weeks. Hope to see you then.