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20 Things That Everyone Should Have In the To Don’t List

20 Things That Everyone Should Have In the To Don’t List

In our everyday lives we have learned how to be efficient by making a to do list. These not only enable us to remember the important matters that need action, but also help us release an emotional burden when we check off or cross out the things we have accomplished.

But are we really effective in making our to do lists? Sometimes we ask ourselves why, in spite of the to do list, we still cram and rush to beat deadlines. Is it because even though we do our to do list, we also do things we ought not to do?

Maybe it’s time to have a to don’t list so we can live better-quality lives. Check out these 20 things everyone should have in a to don’t list: things that you like doing but you don’t need to do; things that you keep doing but that are not that important; or things that you thought you needed to do but that are not really necessary.

Regarding your outlook in life

1. Don’t look at things from a single or short-term perspective.

Like a putting together a puzzle, imagine what the big picture is in any situation.

Don’t be carried away by the urgency of things and be pressured to give attention to something that is only needed momentarily. Think of its impact on a bigger scale and in the long term.

2. Don’t conform to what everyone else does or what everyone else chooses.

Answer your calling. Be unique. Challenge yourself. Do not be afraid to be different.

Just because everyone else is going into a particular field, don’t join the bandwagon if you feel you are better suited to something else.

3. Don’t be carried away by the mediocrity of others.

Stand up for your own principles. Raise the bar of expectation. Don’t conform to the general practice if it doesn’t satisfy your standards.

If you feel there is a better way of doing things, then go ahead and experiment. Ask yourself: “Is there a better way of doing things? Is there a room for improvement? Is there a way to make things fun and innovative?”

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4. Don’t just be on the receiving end.

In any endeavor it’s always a give and take. You have to find a way to contribute according to your status in a group, community or team. Every member of the team is an essential part and therefore no task or duty is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

5. Don’t wait for the perfect time.

Fear holds us back from trying new things or pursuing a dream. There is never the best time to do what you have always wanted to do.

Trial and error is the better option. Start doing. Learn from your mistakes.

6. Don’t try to hold on to everything.

Not everything that worked before will necessarily work now. Be open to change. Be observant and take note if something doesn’t work anymore. Embrace ‘newness.’

7. Don’t judge before you have tried to understand.

It’s easy to immediately jump to a conclusion based on what we already know. That’s prejudgment or bias.

Face ideas, opinions and people with an open mind. Seek to understand and you will discover there’s a lot more to human understanding and harmony.

Regarding productivity

8. Don’t spend too much time on your to do list.

Okay, perhaps when you do your to do list for the first time, it’s understandable if you are excited and careful. But when you do this every day, you cannot spend more time on it than you have to. Though there can’t be a general rule on how much time to spend on your list, looking at it for more than 15 minutes is just a waste of time.

Regarding relationships

9. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you in very tense situations.

Strength of character is not demonstrated by your ability to scare people or make a scene. If you give in to emotional outbursts when under pressure, even if you have an excuse, it will simply come back to haunt you and you will regret it.

10. Don’t ignore your loved ones, family and friends, in spite of your busy day.

Every single day, spend time with those special to you, whether it’s through quality face-to-face time, or a few minutes of talking on the phone if they are far away. Worst case scenario: you should be able to think of them, glance at their photos or simply cherish missing them.

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11. Don’t let your pet peeves get in the way of your relationships.

Grammar, cleanliness, standard operating procedures, or whatever else you have as a pet peeve, no matter how much you are required to follow these to the letter, they should not be a reason to turn a relationship sour.

There is always a good way to say things. There is always a better way to put it. There are also times when you can let go of the less important obsessions. After all, what is more important?

12. Don’t be a slave driver.

No matter how much we have a passion for excellence, it cannot be used to justify a drive to get people to run to exhaustion point in their work, to develop tension in their relationships, or to feel pressure to abandon personal commitments for their career or something else.

Have a balance of work and rest for your team. Do not accept unreasonable deadlines if they will sacrifice the quality of output and the team’s balance between work and personal lives.

13. Don’t deny your emotions.

Be grounded with your feelings. Open your heart and have time to reflect and feel what is there going on inside. Not that you will just follow your heart. Listen to it. Reflect on how to harmonize the heart and the mind.

If you feel a negative emotion, acknowledge it, feel it and find ways to express it appropriately. Afterwards, you will be able to move on with a reasonable action.

Regarding personal development

14. Don’t try to be perfect and flawless.

As the song from the recent Disney movie, Frozen, advises, “Let it go.” We need to let go of strident perfectionism. Yes, we have to strive for our best, but we cannot hold back because we think we are not ready and it’s not the ‘perfect time.’

Prepare for a task, be ready for a challenge, do your homework judiciously. And that should be enough to move on.

15. Don’t be too nice. That just gives others reason to ask for more.

If you are naturally Mr Nice or Ms Congeniality, you have to tone it down and give yourself some justice. Set your boundaries. Learn to say no when enough is enough. Oftentimes, being nice and not knowing how to say no leads to abuse (whether intentional or not).

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Remember: we cannot please everybody.

16. Don’t be intimidated by seemingly powerful characters, because they only know how to act.

Some people are good at making themselves visible to important people, playing politics to get what they want, or leaving a stunning impression on everyone. Some of these people are legitimate, but many are simply show-offs.

Do not be intimidated by them. Find your own confidence, get yourself noticed and most importantly do your job well.

Regarding peace of mind

17. Don’t brood over your mistakes.

It is but natural to feel guilty for our mistakes. Whether petty or big, many of us cannot let go of the thought: “What could have been if only…?”

Let go! For petty things, turn cold turkey and just move on. For big mistakes, reflect on what went wrong, talk it out to a trusted confidant and learn from the experience.

18. Don’t let your mind wander in little free moments.

We have a lot of free moments: while waiting for our meeting to start, while waiting for the train, while walking on the street, etc.

While nowadays gadgets have taken over these moments, we have an alternative to this. For example, think of the things you need to do that are not yet in the to do list; think of how you can do certain tasks better and be more efficient in them. Write down the fruits of your thoughts and apply as appropriate.

When possible, reading a book is another alternative.

Regarding time wasters

19. Don’t spend too much time on social networks.

We are a generation of Facebook users. Haven’t you noticed that there’s only so much we can get out of it in terms of gossiping and stalking? Imagine your day without Facebook. Would it make any difference?

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As I have written in the past and say again now: Use social networks for only 15 minutes a day.

20. Don’t spend too much time on the gadgets and toys.

We are also a generation of gadget-users—tablets, smartphones and what have you. There seems no more time when we are unoccupied. And unfortunately, there is no more time for the beautiful moments of life—such as enjoying the view while traveling, or socializing with our friends—because we are all so busy with our gadgets!

Set aside some time and space to use your gadgets. Then you can be free to spend time talking to the people you love or work with, and find the means to enjoy (or learn to!) viewing daily life wherever you go.

A challenge to you

Which item in the to don’t list resonates most with you? How do you intend to act upon this?

I would like to challenge you to stop doing at least one of the items above that is most relevant to you. Tell us how you go in the comments below, or if you are serious enough about making a self-improvement move, send me an email and share how you will change yourself with a to don’t.

Featured photo credit: kimb

Featured photo credit: Elsie esq via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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