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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Throw away your to-do list

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During my workshops, I sometimes ask participants to describe their biggest challenges. You might be surprised to learn that time management often comes before getting or keeping clients. We can’t really manage time, but we can manage our activities. So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective on this important subject.

If you find that you have created a traditional to-do list, which has grown to 31 pages and is leaving you feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to put it in the trash can. Or at least put it away in your drawer for now.

Before you do this, however, pull from your list the six things you most want to accomplish and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep in a prominent place on your desk.

Prioritize those six things — and only those six things — from most important to least important. Then begin working on #1 right now, taking it as far as it can go today. Tomorrow, perhaps you can move on to #2, and so on.

Now, it is just as important to make a not-to-do list. As marketing coach and consultant David Ward has said, “You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time. As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word ‘decide’ means to ‘kill the other option.’ If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.”

Your not-to-do list might look like this:

  • Check my smart phone.
  • Turn on my email client.
  • Go on Facebook.
  • Reorganize my files.
  • Be hard on myself.
  • Procrastinate.

Remember: This is only a temporary not-to-do list. Set the hours between which you choose to abide by this list. Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules. Suddenly you’ll feel as if you’re managing your time. Eventually, your own story about your tendency to procrastinate will change, and you’ll be able to whip that to-do list into shape.

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Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to


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