Save time, reduce anxiety with a DON’T do list


It is said that successful people make up their minds quickly and change their minds slowly, if at all. As someone who often spends waaaay too much time thinking about things, that’s not what I wanted to hear.

But when you’re intelligent, you can see many possible outcomes. Things are rarely black and white and we should never decide anything important without taking time to reflect.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Actually, what I think happens is that we often do decide quickly, but as human beings with ingrained self-doubts, and as lawyers trained to see both sides, we go back and forth challenging our decisions in an effort to justify them. We’ll go through the motions of trying to find fault, but usually, we’ve already made up our minds.

I don’t think we can’t change the way this works. We can, however, eliminate much of the anxiety and time wasting that occurs by re-thinking and second-guessing our decisions.

One way to do that is with a “don’t do” list.

If you’re married or otherwise monogomous, there are certain things you don’t do. You don’t go to single’s bars for example. In fact, you don’t spend any time thinking about single’s bars. It’s on your mental “don’t do” list. Why not create a similar list for other areas of your life?

For example, as you read this blog, you are presented with many ideas for marketing your legal services. Some ideas you like. Other ideas you have considered and rejected. They’re not for you. And yet you continue thinking about some of those ideas. Even though you have rejected them, you continue reading about them, you download apps, and you talk to other lawyers to see what they think.

I suggest you make a decision and be done with it. Put it on a “don’t do” list.

Open a text file or an Evernote note and start recording a list of things you’re not going to do. Once something is on the list, don’t read about it, don’t think about it, and by all means, don’t worry about it. You considered it and made your decision. Move on.

Your list might include advertising, for example. Your practice area might be one where many attorneys advertise and you’ve thought about it. Make a decision–will you or won’t you?

Maybe “advertising” is too broad. It might be something you can see yourself doing at some point. No problem. It doesn’t go on your list. But perhaps you’ve decided that yellow pages advertising is something you aren’t going to do (or no longer do) and you can put that on your don’t do list.

Maybe you don’t like social media and have decided you’re not going to have anything to do with it. Fine. Think of all the time you’ll save by not reading about it, exploring the different platforms, or actually engaging in it. You should feel good about your decision.

You see an article about lawyers getting clients through Pinterest. Tempting, eh? But you’ve already explored it and put it on your don’t do list. Not for you. So you don’t read the article or ponder the issue (“maybe there’s a new angle to this. . .”). Next subject. . .

On the other hand, social media marketing can produce a lot of business and just because you don’t have time for it right now or you don’t want to do it right now, you might not want to write it off completely. Don’t put it on your list. But if you’re camera shy and you know you don’t want to make youtube videos, put that on your list.

This doesn’t mean you never re-consider your decisions. I do many things today I never saw myself doing a few years ago. People change, technology changes, circumstances change. So, periodically, perhaps every six months or once a year, re-visit your don’t do list and see if there’s anything you want to remove.

Every day we are confronted with issues that require a decision. The less time we spend deciding, and the less time we spend re-considering our decisions, the more time we will have to do the things we’ve decided we want to do. A don’t do list can help.

So, what’s on your “don’t do” list? I know, I know, you want more time to think about it.