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The Not-Do List: 9 Things You Need To Stop Doing

The Not-Do List: 9 Things You Need To Stop Doing

    We’ve all familiar with creating a to-do list to increase our productivity. Another list which can jumpstart our productivity is the not-do list – things we shouldn’t do. By being conscious of what to avoid, it’ll automatically channel our energy into things that we want to do. Doing both hand in hand will maximize our performance.

    If you want to take your productivity to the next level, here are 9 habits avoid:

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    1. Trying to do everything

    I mention 80/20 rule a lot in my articles because it’s true. And I’ll repeat again. Not all tasks are equal. Each task has its own importance. In fact by the 80/20 rule, 20% of the tasks on our to-do list account for 80% of the value. So cut ferociously at your to-do list and slice away the 80% low-value tasks. When you’ve streamlined it to the minimum essential, laser focus all your energy on those 20% high value ones. Do the same thing the next day. Rinse and repeat. Keep only the absolute important things and let go of the rest.

    Read Strategy #6 on 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity for more on the 80/20 rule.

    2. Answering all emails (or calls and messages for that matter)

    I used to think I have to reply to all emails until I noticed that not all my emails were replied to. In fact, many weren’t, even when they were follow-up replies to reader mails asking for help. Seemingly, all the effort that go into meticulously typing, wording and formatting my mails wasn’t really getting me anywhere. I would be stuck in email land the whole day long with no output to claim of my own except for an increase in mails in my sent box. So I began to selectively reply to higher priority emails , and the world didn’t stop. In fact, I now have more time to create more high value content and articles for readers, which is a big win for everyone.

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    3. Thinking you have to do everything immediately

    Apart from my to-do list and not-do list, I also have a do-later list. This is to collect the items that drop in mid-way through the day, usually administrative, nitty gritty tasks that don’t take much time but aren’t majorly important too. If I drop what I’m doing at the moment to work on them it can be disruptive, so instead I put them in my do-later list. Then at the end of the day, I batch and process everything at one go. It’s a lot more effective.

    Likewise for my emails, I have a “Reply by Tue/Thu/Sat” folder where I archived mails to deal with on the respective days.

    4. Putting important tasks off

    Procrastination is the mind killer. It may seem like a good idea to put off that task now, but that’s just setting yourself for a jam later on, and it’s not worth it. Get started on your most important projects now and stop putting them off. Out of all the people I’ve met in all my life, I’ve never come across anyone who gets authentic joy and happiness from procrastination. The ones who claim to be happy procrastinating are usually living in an illusion, alternating from “Oh I’m happy the way I am” to “I wish I don’t have to do this” to “Sigh I wish I started earlier” in a matter of seconds.

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    Don’t subject yourself to such a situation. It’s all about a matter of getting started. Once you start, it gets easier. I’ve written 11 simple, yet practical steps which can help you move out of the procrastination cycle.

    5. Trying to get things perfect the first time round

    Interesting, it’s the perfectionist in us that causes many of us to procrastinate (see #4). If the perfectionist side of you is hindering you from getting things done in the first place, that’s something you should look into. Get into the notion of ‘drafts’ – let yourself work on a 1st draft, where you work on the core content, then return for a 2nd or 3rd draft where you iron out the little details. Give yourself the permission to make mistakes which you can correct later on. It’s much easier this way than trying to get everything right in the 1st version. I do this when writing my articles and my books and my productivity is higher.

    6. Being hung up over details

    Being detail oriented is good. I’m a very detail oriented person myself. However, don’t be so obsessed with details that it holds you back. Does this matter a year from now? 3 years from now? 5 years? If not, then maybe it’s  not worth worrying so much about it now. Go for the bigger picture; that’s more important to you.

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    7. Not having clear goals

    Do you know your goals for this month? How about your goals for this year? And the next year? If you can answer these 3 questions with absolute certainty and conciseness, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, perhaps it’s good to spend some time to think over them. While it may take a bit of time in the beginning, after you work out your priorities, your days become very sharp and focused. I have clear monthly goals and targets which I work toward and review every week, and these help me to stay on track towards my long-term goals. This month, my biggest goal is to  finish and release my 2nd book. Being conscious of this goal has helped me to push away the unimportant tasks and prioritize the ones essential for the launch, so I can meet the launch timing. Right now everything is going on track and I’m excited to see the final outcome. Read Strategy #1 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity for more about setting your targets.

    8. Not taking breaks

    Humans are not robots. While robots can sustain constant output over a long period of time, we need to rest and recharge. So schedule a short break in between your work hours, say for 5 or 10 minutes, and take a breather. You’ll find your focus markedly higher when you return.

    9. Trying to please everyone

    I like this quote by Colin Powell, which says “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity”. You’re never going to be able to control what others think, so don’t spend too much time sweating over it. Instead, work on the things you have control over – yourself, your emotions, your thoughts and your actions. Spend your energy in the creation process, and on people who do deserve your attention and love. Try it for a week – You’ll find it’s a lot more rewarding this way.

    How about you?

    Which of the 9 items in the not-do list above apply to you? Do you have anything that will increase your productivity markedly once you stop doing them? Share in the comments area.

    Image © Shutterstock

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    Celestine Chua

    Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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