Its almost the end of the year which means we start to assess if we are accomplishing all that we wanted for these 365 revolutions around the sun. Have you been efficient and productive with the first few months of the year? Or have you been too distracted, overwhelmed, and under motivated to complete your to do list?
Instead of thinking about all things you have still to do, here are 10 things to STOP DOING to help create the space for your goals to manifest. Doing more doesn’t make you efficient. It makes you busy. Efficient entrepreneurs find ways to do less. Here it is – the Top 10 NOT TO DO LIST.
1. DO NOT Obsess About What to Wear.
Picking out your clothes each morning is a ritual that takes far longer than it needs to. While, yes, we judge each other on appearance, and first impressions are a golden opportunity, that doesn’t mean you should spend an hour getting ready every morning. Could you accomplish the same goal in less time?
The FIX: Consider creating a capsule closet for the season. Trim down your wardrobe to the top 30 items that make you look and feel great, and then mix and match them each morning. The limited number of items means you have limited choices and eliminates time spent making decisions. Sounds like too much work? Go for even fewer items, or take a page out of Steve Jobs look book and come up with your own uniform. It could be a black turtleneck and jeans a la Mr. Jobs himself, or a collection of wrap dresses and blazers. Simplicity breeds efficiency and that means more time to work on the stuff that matters to you the most.
2. DO NOT Check Email Every Hour.
How often do you find yourself in the midst of a project or task, only to be interrupted by an email that takes 20 minutes to respond to (or longer)? Email is not the best mode of communication for immediate asks, so don’t use it to immediately respond either. The beauty of email is the luxury of sending a thoughtful response.
The FIX: Set a period in the morning, and again later in the day when you will be dedicated to checking and responding to messages. Not only does this eliminate the little time sucks that email leeches off your regular day, but it also trains those who communicate with you to be more thoughtful about how they use this communication medium.
3. DO NOT Do It All Yourself.
A key component of time management and greater productivity is knowing your strengths and then delegating the rest. Just as important as knowing what you can delegate is understanding where you need to improve personally.
The FIX: Get an intern or a Virtual assistant who can take the load off. Seek out experts and successful people in the area you want to improve. Programs like Futures and Options in Brooklyn help pair you with a high school intern who can support your business in exchange for learning about real work. Not sure how an assistant or intern can help with? Here’s some ideas of how outsourcing to a VA (virtual assistant) might help. What would your calendar look like with all of those items off your plate? Sites like zirtual.com or upwork.com are great for hiring people for extended periods, but there’s also Fiverr if you just need on demand labor for a gig here or there.
4. DO NOT Spend Hours on Social Media.
Most social platforms are also great tools for business, but similar to email they can easily drain your time if you are not mindful of how you are using them.
The FIX: Set time daily that you will dedicate to checking in on social media, and responding, and then hold yourself accountable to those time limits. If you use social media for business, set a daily routine for checking posts, and engaging with your network. Tools like Hootsuite make the content generation easy, so you don’t have to interrupt yourself throughout the day to stay active on most platforms. Still taking too long? See number 3 and outsource your engagement hours.
5. DO NOT Watch TV.
Time spent watching Shonda Rhimes achieve her goals of TV writing success, is not helping you with your lifetime ambitions. The average American spends just over 5 hours a day watching TV according to Nielson, and the majority of that is on our mobile devices. That’s an extra 20-30 hours every week (enough time to have a part time job)! Not only does cutting off the TV save you time, but if you are one of the few folks out there still paying a cable company for hundreds of channels (usually at hundreds of dollars a month) kicking this habit, can also replenish your bank account. Double efficient!
THE FIX: Call the Cable company or disable your set-top (Roku, Firestick, Chromecast, Apple TV). If you have to plug it in and reset it every time you want to watch, it will be less tempting to become blob and more tempting to work on your goals (go for a run, make more calls, update your website, finish that RFP).
6. DO NOT Multi-task.
The notion that the human brain is capable of doing two things at the same time, is completely false. Multitasking is a myth. The research in modern psychology demonstrates that we can’t do two things at once, but instead are just switching back and forth very quickly. Starting, and stopping, and starting, and stopping takes up more time than completing one task in its entirety. When you multi task you are simply allowing yourself to be interrupted, by yourself, over and over again.
THE FIX: Set a time limit to complete task A and either complete it or schedule additional time to come back to it, before transitioning to task B. It’s the difference between “the local” and “the express” for the time it takes to achieve your goal.
7. DO NOT ‘Wing’ It.
A great way to waste time is to not have a plan or intention for how you will spend it. If you wake up each morning and are not clear on your intentions for the day, down to 30 minute increments (time blocking), you are likely spending precious minutes and hours not being productive at all, but simply getting organized to start a day that is already in process. Instead, get in the habit of planning your day the night before, scheduling specific “to dos” into your planner and having an end goal in mind for meetings and appointments. The extra intention means you can spend more time doing and less time planning what to do.
THE FIX: For an efficient and streamlined start to each day, review the next day’s calendar before you go to sleep each night. Make notes to yourself about the goals for the day.
8. DO NOT Say Yes.
No is a powerful word that doesn’t get nearly as much use as it should. Perhaps because the stigma of rejection runs so deep that the thought of saying no is akin to dishing out rejection to the people in our lives. This is not true. Setting boundaries and sticking to them is not just a way of protecting your time, but also of protecting your relationships. Better to say no to things you cannot do than to say yes, struggle, stress, and then resent the person you have committed your time to. Some will tell you that instead of no, to use the “yes, but” strategy, which can work to a point. But, if it’s not in line with your goals and will take resources away from your higher priority intentions, your answer is truly no. Saying “yes but” when you mean no, is setting a false expectation, and compromising your boundaries. That’s “hustling backwards” as my husband likes to say. Not efficient. Beware of those compromises – they usually point to you not getting what you want out of your goals, so that someone else can get what they want out of theirs.
THE FIX: Woman up and say NO to others so you can Say YES to yourself.
9. DO NOT Make Monster TO DO lists.
The 50-point to do list, feels good when you write it out. It’s nice to see all of your priorities and ambitions in one place, but that doesn’t make it efficient. That monster list will only serve to overwhelm and paralyze you. At best, each of us can complete 4-5 major tasks each day. Writing out any more than that, is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Your monster to do list is an elephant, and how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
THE FIX: Instead of walking with a monster to do list, limit your daily to dos to 3-4 top priorities. Schedule when you will complete them during the day (using time blocking), and reward yourself when you cross those items off. Instead of looking at the 44 things you didn’t do at the end of the day, you can end each day looking back on the 4 high priority things you accomplished! How great will that feel? That shift is not only gratifying, but also provides motivation and momentum for 3-4 new things you plan to tackle tomorrow.
10. DO NOT Try To Do It All.
I just gave you a NOT TO DO list. The last thing you want to do is tackle all of these habits all at once.
THE FIX: Pick one that you can implement this week and try it on for size. We all know that habits take a while to form. When you change your behavior you have to rewire how your brain reacts to your activity. That will take time to overwrite. Pick one of the items above, and work on that until it becomes natural. Onboarding an intern or a VA takes time. Sorting out and selecting your 30 piece wardrobe takes time. Staying on the phone with a cable provider while they convince you to stay takes time, and patience. Remember the elephant? One bite at a time.*
Implement just one of these techniques into your routine over the next 6 months and add an extra hour to your day- 7 hours to your week – 161 hours to the rest of your year. It’s like getting a month 13 to finish your goals. And isn’t that the magic bullet we all want? More time? Comment below on which number you’re going to take for a spin.
*NO elephants were harmed in the writing of this article.