By: Jeff Haden
If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns — in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being — from adding these items to your not to-do list:
Every day, make these commitments to yourself. I promise your day – and your life – will go a little better.
1. “I will not blame other people – for anything.”
Employees make mistakes. Vendors don’t deliver on time. Potential customers never sign. You blame them for your problems.
But you are also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training, build in enough of a buffer, or asked for too much too soon. Take responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others — then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time. And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.
2. “I will not check my phone while I’m talking to someone.”
You’ve looked away. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing. Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it. Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone. Other people will feel better about you – and you’ll feel better about yourself.
3. “I will not multitask during a meeting.”
The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.
4. “I will not interrupt.”
Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt someone what you’re really saying is, “I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you’re saying; I’m listening to you so I can decide what I want to say.” Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say. They’ll love you for it — and you’ll love how that makes you feel.
5. “I will not waste time on people who make no difference in my life.”
Trust me: The inhabitants of planet TMZ are doing fine without you. But your family, your friends, your employees — all the people that really matter to you – are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.
6. “I will not be distracted by multiple notifications.”
You don’t need to know the instant you get an email or text or tweet or like. If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set — instead of a schedule you let everyone else set – you can check to see what’s happening. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.
7. “I will not whine.”
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better. If something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
8. “I will not let the past control my future.”
Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go. Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know — especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you — unless you let it.
9. “I will not wait until I’m convinced I will succeed.”
You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.
10. “I will not talk behind another person’s back.”
If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.
Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.
11. “I will not say yes when I really mean no.”
Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect.
Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think? When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time — or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.
12. “I will not be afraid.”
We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, what we can’t change, what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us. So it’s easier to hesitate… and think a little longer, do more research, or explore more alternatives. Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by. And so do our dreams.
Whatever you’ve been planning or imagining or dreaming of, get started today. Put your fears aside. Do something. Do anything.
Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever. Today is the most precious asset you own — and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.