To Do & To Don’t

In our continual effort to order the disorderly, we spend a great deal of time creating and managing “to do” lists. We all hold out hope for the myth of eventual full completion of all tasks on the list and the joy that comes with a job done – well or otherwise. Typically, we choose those items easiest and quickest to tackle first. We choose to do what we know how to do and put off those items for which we don’t know where to start.

In addition to your to do list you likely have a “to don’t” list. (Most of us don’t bother to write it down.) This list consists things tried and failed and is every bit as important as your to do list.

Very early in my career, while working in distribution sales for Aveda, I had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Great Expectations Hair Salons Jerry Brennan. Mr. Brennan would forever change my understanding of crossing things off the list. Going into the meeting I was intimidated, but young and inexperienced enough not to let that get in my way. In an effort to connect I began the conversation by saying, “I bet I could learn a lot from your successes.” To which he responded, “All I’ve ever done is cross things of the list that didn’t work.”

The wisdom contained within his response is:

  1. The list is vast and consists of potentially risky ideas worth trying.
  2. The presupposition that ideas put on the list were all given a chance, not avoided because they were in the “don’t know where to start” column.
  3. The list can be whittled down to a smaller list of successful ideas that can be repeated and improved upon – leaving you with a manageable to do list and a to don’t list of things you tried but didn’t work.

When your list is too long, too short or you don’t know where to begin, seek the assistance of others who have already crossed things off their list. By sharing a to do and a to don’t list you will save time, aggravation and money. Reward always comes with some risk but only through collaboration, the open sharing and comparison of lists, can you create a plan that mitigates the “where to start,” eliminates non-starters and expedites the creation of a list of successful ideas worth executing.

If you don’t know what to do or what to don’t, find someone who does and compare lists.

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